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There is a predictable pattern to election night. Every television news network broadcasts live with their full team of pundits, reporters, and anchors. Results come in state by state. And once a presidential candidate clinches the necessary Electoral College votes, the loser delivers a speech conceding the election and the winner transforms into the president-elect.
It is a pattern that has only been interrupted once in a generation: In 2000, the presidential contest between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore would endure another 37 days before Gore eventually conceded the race.
This year, like nearly everything about the 2016 contest, looks like it could be different. Current polls suggest that Republican candidate Donald Trump will lose the race. And for a week now, Trump has been saying that if he loses, it is because the election will be “rigged.”
Put those two things together, and here’s one logical conclusion: If Trump does lose, he won’t concede the presidential election anytime soon.
Just consider the incentives. If Trump likes to put on a show and create drama, then having the TV networks and voters everywhere wait until the middle of the night -- or days -- for him to give remarks would certainly do that.
There are other reasons why Trump may not concede: His devotion to this political base, which he has expressed in his language throughout the campaign, and not accepting the election outcome would give him and that base a movement to carry on past Nov. 8.
Lastly, not conceding could undermine the legitimacy of Hillary Clinton’s presidency. It’s similar to what Trump did with the birtherism charge against Obama.
This is not to suggest that all Republicans will join Trump in this hypothetical stunt. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, said on “Meet The Press” on Sunday that he would accept the outcome of the contest. Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said the campaign will accept the results without an evidence of widespread fraud. And no doubt that much of the Republican establishment would be happy to accept the results, if only to marginalize and get rid of Trump.
But Trump has found it hard to admit he is wrong. Given that, it should come as no surprise that Trump will find it very difficult to admit he lost the election, especially since he has been telegraphing that it’s a “rigged” contest since before the first ballot was cast.
The question is what will Clinton do about this scenario?
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