Election Day is still almost 100 days away, but faced with collapsing poll numbers and mounting criticism from within his own party, Republican nominee Donald Trump is wasting no time trying to find someone else to blame in the event he loses in November.
Trump appeared on Fox News Monday evening and suggested that Hillary Clinton would somehow steal the election from him.
“I’m telling you, November 8th, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged,” he told host Sean Hannity. “And I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
Watch his comments, starting around the 17:25 mark:
The idea of a stolen election has also worked its way into Trump’s speeches on the campaign trail. “I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest,” Trump said during a campaign event in Ohio earlier in the day on Monday. “Because I think my side was rigged,” he added about the Republican primaries, which Trump won easily. His campaign has made similar arguments in recent days with regard to the debate schedule, which was settled on a year ago by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.
Trump didn’t specify how the Clinton campaign would go about “rigging” a general election, but the idea that Democrats are somehow stealing votes isn’t new. Republicans argue that maintaining the integrity of elections is what motivates their push for voter ID laws, even though several lawmakers have admitted that such laws are purely about disenfranchising as many Democratic voters as possible. When Mitt Romney lost decisively in 2012, several conservative news outlets peddled theories about how Obama won because of voter fraud or by falsifying favorable economic indicators in the months leading up to the election.
Republican voters were so thoroughly inundated with conspiracy theories about a stolen election that fully half of them believed that a non-existent organization stole the election for Obama according to a poll conducted immediately after the general. Among those who believed the conspiracies: Donald Trump.
Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone gave an illuminating and unhinged interview to Breitbart last week about the issue of election fraud, outlining his pet theories about polling numbers and election day returns (one example: “[Trump is] leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If [he] loses Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud.”) He also beseeched Trump to incite civil disobedience if he uncovers instances of “election fraud” and Hillary Clinton wins.
“I think he’s gotta put them on notice, that their inauguration will be a rhetorical — and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence — but it will be a bloodbath,” he said. “The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in. No, we will not stand for it. We will not stand for it.”
Following the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton has reopened a significant lead over Trump in national polls, and still enjoys comfortable leads in several key swing states. She remains the heavy favorite in head-to-head general election match-ups with Trump, a fact that Trump appears to be having difficulty accepting.