Image showing the empty stage of the first presidential debate at Hofstra University's David & Mack Sport and Exhibition Complex, Sept. 26, 2016 in Hempstead, N.Y.  
Photo by Joe Raedle/Pool/AFP/Getty

Donald Trump’s short-term plans remain unresolved

At the very end of last week’s presidential debate, NBC News’ Lester Holt asked the candidates a good question: will they accept the outcome of the election, win or lose? Hillary Clinton answered first and said, “I support our democracy. And sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But I certainly will support the outcome of this election.”

When the question went to Donald Trump he rambled about 800 immigrants who became U.S. citizens. So, Holt tried again, asking, “Will you accept the outcome of the election?”

“Look, here’s the story,” Trump replied. “I want to make America great again. I’m going to be able to do it. I don’t believe Hillary will. The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her.”

When Trump talked to the New York Times later in the week, his answer to the same question was quite a bit different.
Mr. Trump, aiming to unnerve Mrs. Clinton, even indicated that he was rethinking his statement at their last debate that he would “absolutely” support her if she won in November, saying: “We’re going to have to see. We’re going to see what happens. We’re going to have to see.”
The Republican nominee didn’t specify what, exactly, he’ll have to “see” before deciding whether or not to accept the outcome of the presidential election, but apparently the commitment he made on Monday night is now less clear.

And what about his commitment to participate in the two remaining presidential debates? There’s some uncertainty about that, too.

The GOP candidate hedged months ago about the debates before ultimately agreeing to show up. Even after his difficulties last week, Trump said he planned to be part of the second and third events with Clinton.

But plans change.
Asked whether he was reconsidering participating in the next debate, scheduled for Oct. 9, Mr. Trump did not answer directly.

“I want to do the next debate, but everybody is talking about the mike,” Mr. Trump said.
In this case, “the mike” refers to Trump’s microphone at the first debate, which the Commission on Presidential Debates acknowledged on Friday was problematic. “[T]here were issues regarding Donald Trump’s audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall,” the commission’s statement read.

For the tens of millions of Americans watching outside the venue, Trump was heard loud and clear. What’s more, while the candidate says “everybody is talking about” the microphone, by some measures, the only person preoccupied with the subject is Trump himself.

He nevertheless appears to be looking for an excuse. It’s hard to imagine Trump bowing out of the next debates, but then again, it was hard to imagine quite a bit about Trump’s candidacy, and yet here we are. The fact that he’s hedged at all – “I want to do the next debate, but…” – suggests there’s at least some question about the Republican’s plans.

The second debate is scheduled for this Sunday, Oct. 9, in St. Louis. The moderators are ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Debates, Donald Trump and Presidential Debates

Donald Trump's short-term plans remain unresolved