Hillary Clinton’s campaign is increasingly preparing for the possibility that Donald Trump may never concede the US presidential election should she win, a development that could enormously complicate the crucial early weeks of her preparations to take office.
Aiming to undermine any argument the Republican nominee may make about a “rigged” election, she hopes to roll up a large majority in next month’s election. That could repudiate Trump’s message and project a governing mandate after the bitter presidential race.
Clinton’s team is also keeping a close eye on statements by national Republican leaders, predicting they could play an key role in how Trump’s accusations of electoral fraud might be perceived.
Campaign officials stress they are not taking the election’s outcome for granted. But they have begun thinking about how to position their candidate after the election. Long one of America’s most polarising political figures, Clinton has begun telling audiences she’ll need their help in healing the country.
A refusal by Trump to accept the election results would not only upend a basic tenet of US democracy, but also force Clinton to create a new playbook for handling the transfer of power. A narrow victory would make it more difficult for her to claim substantial political capital at the start of her administration.
The moves came as Trump last night outlined what he would do in his first 100 days were he to become president, including plans to deport two million “criminal, illegal immigrants”.
“Donald is still going to whine if he loses. But if the mandate is clear, I don’t think many people will follow him,” said Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate.
While Clinton’s campaign has long focused on passing the threshold of 270 electoral college votes, it’s now looking to capture an expanded number of states that could also help determine control of the Senate – including Republican-leaning Arizona, which has 11 electoral college votes but which has voted Republican in all but one election since 1952 – Bill Clinton’s victory in 1996.
Polls indicate that Clinton has extended her advantage in several toss-up states during the three debates. She has maintained stable leads in states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado, as well as an edge in Florida and North Carolina.
In a race against Trump and independents Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, Clinton may struggle to reach 50 per cent of the vote. But competing in states such as Arizona and pushing for Senate victories in Missouri and Indiana might help Democrats in their quest to recapture the Senate and give her a better chance of surpassing Obama’s 332 electoral votes in the 2012 campaign.
If Clinton wins the White House, she will enter as one of the least popular first-term presidents in generations. While Trump has suffered from high unfavourable ratings, particularly among women, Clinton has been hampered by polls showing more than half of the public considers her to be untrustworthy.