Donald Trump, tongue-in-cheek, said Thursday that he’d accept the results of the November election “if I win.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to make a major announcement today,” the Republican nominee told his supporters in Delaware, Ohio. “I would like to promise and pledge to all my voters and supporters, and all of the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.”
Trump, trailing in the polls, sparked a wave of criticism at the debate Wednesday night when he refused to commit to accepting the election results if Democrat Hillary Clinton emerges victorious Nov. 8. Clinton called his response “horrifying” and a number of Republicans spoke out against Trump’s position, which undermines a basic tenet of the democratic transition of power.
Last week, Trump started peppering his stump speech with the conspiratorial claim that the U.S. election would be rigged against him. He charged that the increasing number of women emerging to accuse him of past sexual misconduct, including assault, are part of a media conspiracy to “rig” the race. In addition, he said the election would be tainted by widespread voter fraud. Independent fact checkers have found that instances of voter fraud are rare and insignificant.
Despite the joke he used to kick off his speech this Thursday, Trump went on to double down on his claims of large-scale voter fraud. He rattled off a series of “terrible and frightening statistics,” such as registration irregularities, voters being registered in multiple states and dead people remaining on voter rolls.
But Trump did little to substantiate his suggestion that in-person voter fraud is rampant. Fore example, he said vaguely that “some” people commit fraud by using dead people’s registrations to cast ballots.
“So you have 1.8 million people who are dead who are registered to vote — and some of them vote. One was a Republican, and after death became a Democrat. It’s true,” he said.
He also argued that Clinton is running “a campaign that will do anything to win,” including voter fraud.
But Trump eventually conceded that he would accept a clear defeat. He implied that his reluctance to answer the debate question was fueled in part by the possibility of a close election in which there would be a recount, like the one in 2000.
“Of course, I would accept a clear election result,” he said. “But I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result. And always, I will follow and abide by all of the rules and traditions of all of the many candidates who have come before me. Always.”
Trump added: “Bottom line: We’re going to win. We’re going to win. We’re going to win so big. We’re going to win so big.”