But it’s important to understand that this isn’t just a closing argument. He’s laying the groundwork for an argument that he may continue to make after the election. That argument is that Hillary Clinton’s presidency is illegitimate, not just because the election was rigged, of course, but also because she is a criminal whose candidacy was always fundamentally illegitimate. In the short term, he’s asking voters to elect him to spare the country the hell we’ll inevitably go through if she wins and our system is thrown into chaos as the truth about her comes out. But if he loses, this argument may long outlast the election.
A new New York Times/CBS News poll shows that a whole lot of his supporters will likely be captivated by this whole narrative. It finds that large chunks of Trump supporters are not too confident their votes will be counted accurately and believe voter fraud happens a lot:
It also finds that more than a quarter of Trump’s supporters say they won’t accept the result, and that barely more than a third of them think it’s very important for their candidate to concede publicly if he loses:
Now, it is encouraging that 63 percent of Trump voters say they’ll accept the results. But that 34 percent who say they probably won’t or that it depends is higher than it should be. And a large majority of Trump supporters say they don’t think it’s that important for Trump to publicly acknowledge that Clinton won, if that happens.
We’ve already seen that Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon is looking to convert the Trump campaign into a vehicle for a political movement that will continue to function as a disruptive force inside the GOP well after the election. It’s a big unknown whether Trump will go along with that plan. But he might. And at the center of this movement will be the idea that Clinton’s presidency is illegitimate.
But this idea of Clinton’s fundamental illegitimacy — expressed with varying degrees of explicitness — could also infect relations between Clinton and Congressional Republicans, and by extension, how our government functions under a Clinton presidency. The through line here goes from Trump’s claim that the election is rigged, through his use of the FBI discovery of new emails (of unknown relevance) to support the claim that she is a criminal who should never have been able to get elected at all, through the vow by Congressional Republicans to keep investigating Clinton, through the scattered chatter among Republicans (already) about impeaching Clinton, and even through to the suggestion that Republicans may not act at all to fill the Supreme Court vacancy even well after the election.
As Brian Beutler explains, the recent GOP jettisoning of basic political norms on multiple fronts suggests they may adopt even more of a scorched earth approach to a Clinton presidency, should she win, than they did to Obama’s. This is the result of a confluence of factors — currently unresolved questions about Clinton’s email set up, due to the FBI’s discovery, and the prospect of a Supreme Court that tilts liberal, which represents a major threat to many conservative priorities. And all this could be made even worse if Trump — unlike Romney — does not concede, and a sizable chunk of Republican voters is persuaded that the outcome was illegitimate. Bannon (perhaps with Trump himself), Trump’s supporters in Congress, and other hardline conservatives in Congress might cynically weaponize that against Republicans who decline to meet this supposedly illegitimate president with the full blown war footing that she requires. And the destruction and mayhem may well continue.
* A GOOD JOBS REPORT: Bloomberg describes the new October jobs numbers, just in:
U.S. jobs continued to gain at a steady pace in October and wage gains accelerated, signs that the labor market and economy made steady progress at the start of the fourth quarter. Payrolls climbed by 161,000 last month…The jobless rate fell to 4.9 percent, while wages rose from a year earlier by the most since 2009.
We are heading into an election with wages rising and the unemployment below five percent.
* CLINTON HOLDING STEADY IN VIRGINIA: A new Roanoke College poll finds Clinton leading Trump among likely voters in Virginia by 45-38 in the four-way match-up, and by 49-40 in the head-to-head. The averages have Clinton up by nearly seven points.
A few days ago internal GOP polling supposedly showed the state in play for Trump. That doesn’t look likely, though. If Clinton holds Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, she only needs one more, barring a surprise Trump pick-up in Wisconsin or Michigan.
* DEAD HEAT IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: A new UMass Lowell/7 News poll finds Clinton and Trump tied among likely voters in New Hampshire at 44 percent apiece, the result of Trump gaining five points here since last month. This is the third recent poll to find a dead heat, and the averages, while still putting Clinton slightly up, show a real tightening.
This matters, because there are a few narrow paths to a win for Trump that require New Hampshire to get him over the top. The Clinton campaign knows the state is at risk: she is set to campaign here one more time.
* CLINTON CAMP CONFIDENT ABOUT FLORIDA AND NEVADA: The New York Times reports:
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told donors on a conference call Thursday that the campaign expected to win Florida and North Carolina in large part because of Hispanic turnout. In Nevada, a third diverse battleground state, Mr. Mook said he no longer saw a path for Mr. Trump to win there.
I’m not sure why the Latino vote would be relevant in North Carolina, but if the campaign’s data indicates the Latino vote is likely to help put away Florida and Nevada, that’s encouraging.
* CLINTON CRUSHING IT AMONG FLORIDA LATINOS: Marc Caputo reports on a new bipartisan poll that finds Clinton leading Trump among Latinos in Florida by a historic 60-30 margin:
Hispanics account for almost 16 percent of Florida’s 12.9 million active registered voters. In 2012, they were about 14 percent of the registered voters. At the same time, white voters have decreased 2 percentage points to 64 percent of the voter rolls. If the poll is right and if Hispanics cast 16 percent of the ballots in an election with 72 percent overall turnout, Clinton would build a margin of 437,000 more votes than Trump.
What if missing nonwhite voters, as opposed to just missing white voters, end up mattering in this election, too?
* LATINO EARLY VOTE SPIKES: The Arizona Republic reports this, based on data obtained from Catalist:
As of Oct. 30, nine days before the Nov. 8 election, 13 percent of the early ballots cast in Arizona came from Latino voters, up from 11 percent at the same point prior to the 2012 presidential election and from 8 percent in 2008. The increase from 2012 to 2016 is the largest increase in early voting by Latinos in any state….Nevada and Colorado have had the second- and third-largest increases in Latino early voting.
Even if Dems can’t pull off Arizona, this signals where things are headed. And robust early voting from Latinos in Nevada and Colorado is an important piece of the puzzle in a Clinton win.
* AND CONSERVATIVES WILL DEMAND TOTAL SCOTUS BLOCKADE: Carl Hulse reports that conservative groups are gearing up to demand that Senate Republicans continue to refuse to act on fill Antonin Scalia’s seat beyond the election:
If Mrs. Clinton prevails and Republicans hold the Senate, they are likely to come under immense pressure from conservative groups to do whatever is necessary to prevent her from filling seats on the court….The idea of denying Mrs. Clinton a court pick has been quietly simmering in conservative circles…It burst into the open in recent weeks…
The original GOP position was that the next president should pick Scalia’s replacement, so the voters could weigh in. Apparently what they really meant is that the next Republican president should.