WASHINGTON — Democrats and fellow Republicans alike denounced Donald Trump’s talk of challenging the outcome of next month’s U.S. presidential election — a contest he insists will be “rigged” — to the dismay of those who fear trouble from the real estate mogul’s more fervid supporters.
President Barack Obama, speaking Thursday at a rally for Democratic contender Hillary Clinton in Florida, called Trump’s comments “dangerous.” Republican Sen. John McCain, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008, said accepting the outcome of an election “is an act of respect for the will of the American people.”
Trailing in opinion polls, Trump vowed at a rally in Ohio on Thursday to “totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.” He also said he would reserve his “right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.”
Trump’s comments recalled the 2000 presidential election, in which Republican George W. Bush’s narrow victory against Democratic rival Al Gore in Florida became the focus of litigation that delayed confirmation of the winner by about a month.
In his final televised debate against Clinton the night before, Trump would not commit to accepting the result of this year’s election. More generally, he failed to mount an effective comeback after losing support over derogatory remarks about women. Various U.S. polls put Trump’s chances of winning at 1% to 13%. Trump tweeted a claim Thursday that “Crooked Hillary” had unfairly obtained the debate questions.
Some worry such accusations will radicalize some Trump supporters. When a Republican party office in the state of North Carolina suffered an apparent firebombing on Oct. 16, Trump blamed “animals” representing Clinton. Bad blood between the two candidates’ camps could become a lingering source of political turmoil after the election.