Questioned last night about Trump’s refusal to say he would accept a defeat, his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said that sometimes “we have extraordinary experiences” in elections, like the one in 2000, when Al Gore conceded on election night and then withdrew his concession. Whether Gore’s behavior in 2000 was worse or better than Trump’s now is being furiously debated on twitter. But it’s worth recalling that the reason for the “extraordinary experience” of 2000 was that the presidential election was extremely close. The Electoral College turned on one state with a razor-thin margin. Leaving aside the propriety of either side’s actions back then–my memory of the details is hazy–it was reasonable for both sides to think that an accurate count might show that they won.
This year’s race would have to change dramatically for there to be any such uncertainty. At the moment the RCP average shows Clinton beating Trump by 6.4 percent in the popular vote and 128 votes in the Electoral College. If the results are anything like this, there won’t be any reasonable way of disputing the outcome. If it ends up being a close election, on the other hand, then recounts and disputes over voting irregularities could make sense. Spending the last weeks of the campaign saying the election is “rigged” does not seem like a way to make the race any closer.