President Donald Trump’s darkly portentous campaign message came into stark focus Monday as he launched his most intensive campaign swing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, warning of “fascist” Democrats with a “Trojan horse” candidate during stops in the Upper Midwest.
The dire warnings – reliant on false information and racist tropes – foreshadowed a bitter fall campaign as Trump seeks to reverse a slide in the polls. And they presaged a drawn out post-election battle as Trump preempted a potential loss with warnings of fraud.
“The only way we’re going to lose this election is if this election is rigged,” he said during a stop in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the second of several battleground events he is using this week to counterprogram the Democrats’ all-digital convention.
Over the past week, Trump’s attempts at shoring up his political standing have taken on a frantic and often conspiratorial energy, including attempts to limit mail-in voting by refusing new funding for the post office, racist and sexist attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden’s new running mate and persistent unfounded warnings that November’s vote will be rigged.
He appeared to inject a new scheme meant to deprive him of a second term on Monday: a “deep state” he is concerned might announce a coronavirus vaccine on November 4 – the day after the election.
“I don’t need that,” he said during his late-afternoon speech in Wisconsin.
Yet it was his declaration that a loss in November could only come as a result of election fraud that was the most startling. Trump has previously warned of a “rigged election,” including on Monday morning as he issued unfounded warnings about mail-in voting and drop boxes for ballots. Combined with a declaration that his loss would only be a result of cheating, Trump is giving voice to Democratic fears that he will refuse to accept the election results.
Elsewhere in his speech, Trump said he should be granted a “redo” on his first term, alleging falsely that his first campaign was spied upon by the previous administration. And at another point, he joked that he may remain in office for “16, 20” years.
Though made in jest, those remarks only fuel the impression that Trump is preparing, at a minimum, to challenge November’s results if they do not show him winning. Taken together, the remarks suggest Trump is actively working to undermine the results of an election that polls currently show him losing.