Donald Trump is once again calling voting by mail the "biggest risk" to his reelection, and all but says his campaign will do everything in its power to stop states expanding it.
President Donald Trump called mail-in voting the biggest threat to his reelection and said his campaign's multimillion-dollar legal effort to block expanded ballot access could determine whether he wins a second term.
In an Oval Office interview Thursday focusing on the 2020 election, the president also warned his party in blunt terms not to abandon him and cast Hillary Clinton as a more formidable opponent than Joe Biden, despite Biden's commanding lead in polls.
The president’s assertion that mail-in voting will endanger his reelection comes as states across the country are rushing to accommodate remote voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of voters could be disenfranchised if they decide to stay home on Election Day rather than risk contracting the virus at crowded polling stations.
But Trump and his campaign argue, despite a lack of evidence, that widespread mail-in voting will benefit Democrats and invite fraud. The Republican Party is spending tens of millions of dollars on a multifront legal battle.
“My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits,” Trump said. “We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don’t win those lawsuits, I think — I think it puts the election at risk.”
Trump was asked a two-part question during the interview: Would a substantial amount of mail-in voting — which is widely expected because of coronavirus — cause him to question the legitimacy of the election? And would he accept the results no matter what?
“Well, you can never answer the second question, right? Because Hillary kept talking about she’s going to accept, and they never accepted it. You know. She lost too. She lost good.” Clinton conceded the day after the 2016 election.
Trump goes on to warn Republicans thinking about dumping him that they will face the wrath of"the strongest base people have ever seen" unless they remain completely loyal, taking credit for ending the political careers of former GOP senators Bob Corker, Dean Heller, and Jeff Flake.
But note Trump didn't say losing the lawsuits puts his reelection at risk, he specifically said that losing the lawsuits to block voting by mail puts "the election at risk".
That's a dead giveaway as to what's coming if and when Trump loses the electoral vote, which CNN's Harry Enten now sees as a likely outcome.
For Biden to score a huge win, very little needs to change. Biden is ahead by 10 points in an average of live interview polls nationally. The largest Democratic win in the last 56 years was Bill Clinton's 9-point win in 1996.
More impressively, Biden isn't that far from taking more than 400 electoral votes. Let's assume Biden wins all the electoral votes Hillary Clinton did four years ago (232), as polls indicate. One or more recent polls put him up as well in Arizona (11 electoral votes), Florida (29 electoral votes), Georgia (16 electoral votes), Michigan (16 electoral votes), North Carolina (15 electoral votes), Ohio (18 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) and Wisconsin (10 electoral votes).
If Biden wins all of these states, he gets to just south of 370 electoral votes.
Add on Iowa (6 electoral votes) and Texas (38 electoral votes), where Biden was down just a point in two high quality polls released in June, and he gets more than 400 electoral votes. That would beat Clinton's 379 electoral votes in 1996 as the largest since Johnson's 486 electoral vote win in 1964.
Indeed, forecast models based on a slew of indicators (such as one put together by University of Alabama student Jack Kersting) have Biden earning more than 400 electoral votes within its 95% confidence interval.
Of course, if the models are off by only a few points, Trump wins easily.
Yet, models such as these also have Biden getting only about 200 electoral votes as a plausible scenario too.
Remember, it was only a few months ago when Biden's lead in the live telephone national polls was 6 points. That would put Trump within the range where he could win an electoral college victory with a small polling error, even if he lost the national vote. In fact, in many of the 2016 Trump states where Biden currently leads, there were polls that favored Trump just a few months ago.
In our fast moving news cycles, one could imagine a new unforeseen crisis arising. Likewise, a topic currently dominating the news (e.g. the protests) may fall to the background. Either of these could cause the presidential race to tighten up.
Moreover, history tells us that it's also quite conceivable that Biden loses. Harry Truman in 1948 was facing a similar deficit in the national polls that Trump is facing now. He'd win by nearly 5 points nationally and carry the electoral college in a tight contest. More recently, Clinton was in a distant third place at this point in 1992 to Republican George H.W. Bush and independent Ross Perot. Clinton took the popular vote by 6 points and scored 370 electoral votes.
And all it takes for Trump to knock those models in his direction far enough to win is to increase GOP voter suppression efforts in the battleground states the GOP has either legislative or gubernatorial control (or both): Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all have Republican-controlled state legislatures, along with Texas, Iowa, Ohio, and Indiana.
Take nothing for granted. Everything will be different five months from now. Again.