President Trump will declare victory on election night if it appears that he is “ahead” in early results, even if not enough ballots have been counted for observers to formally declare a winner, Axios reported on Monday.
Trump has privately discussed the possibility of announcing victory prematurely, three people familiar with the conversations told Axios. The strategy would hinge on Trump gaining leads in states such as Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, or Iowa.
After declaring victory, Trump would then claim that any mail-in vote received after November 3 would be invalid. This would delegitimize some votes received in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania, whose supreme court has ruled that mail-in ballots may be received up to November 6 as long as they are postmarked by election day.
With mail-in voters favoring Joe Biden, Trump’s team is planning to declare that the Pennsylvania election is “stolen” if ballots received after election day help the Democratic nominee win the race.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh denied the report on the strategy.
“This is nothing but people trying to create doubt about a Trump victory,” Murtaugh told Axios. “When he wins, he’s going to say so.” Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller commented that the president “will be re-elected handily and no amount of post-election Democratic thievery will be able to change the results.”
A win in Pennsylvania is considered crucial for both candidates to build a victory in the electoral college. President Trump shocked Democrats by winning the state in 2016, and has sought to keep Biden from retaking the state by highlighting the Democratic nominee’s promises to end fracking and “transition” away from the oil industry.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney has called on residents to be patient on Election Day and during the vote count. Pennsylvania law prohibits mail-in ballots from being counted until after polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, meaning that a full count could take “several days” because of a record number of mail-in ballots for this election.