Trump: The only way Clinton can win Pennsylvania is by cheating

He’s down 10 points in the last four polls of a state the GOP hasn’t won in nearly 30 years. As such, this is only slightly less absurd than Hillary saying that cheating is the only way she can lose South Carolina.

Although, if the polls keep going the way they’re going, by November cheating really might be the only way she could lose South Carolina.

“The only way we can lose in my opinion — I really mean this, Pennsylvania — is if cheating goes on,” Trump told rally attendees Friday evening during an event in Altoona. “I really believe it.”…

“We have to call up law enforcement, and we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching,” Trump said. “Because if we get cheated out of this election, if we get cheated out of a win in Pennsylvania, which is such a vital state, especially when I know what’s happening here, folks. I know. She can’t beat what’s happening here.”…

“The only way they can beat it in my opinion — and I mean this 100 percent — if in certain sections of the state, they cheat, okay?” he said. “So I hope you people can sort of — not just vote on the 8th — go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine.”

By “certain sections of the state,” I assume he means black sections of Philadelphia. His friend Hannity has been beating the drum lately about the implausible fact that in 59 separate inner-city precincts of Philly, Mitt Romney received not a single vote in 2012. A Philly elections inspector pushed back hard against that criticism this week on Twitter, though, insisting that there’s no evidence of voter fraud. He also made the clever point that if you were going to rig vote totals, it’d be idiotic to hang a zero on your opponent for the simple reason that it’s too easily disproved. Any single Republican voter in that precinct could come forward after the election and say that they’d voted for Romney, thereby proving that the totals are bogus. No one did. The Philadelphia Inquirer went looking for registered Republicans in black inner-city districts afterward and found only handfuls, and none of those whom they did find claimed to have voted for Romney. Getting a flat zero in a city precinct does seem unlikely but it also seems unlikely that one party would dominate an entire racial demographic on the order of 95/5 — and yet Democrats do reach numbers in that vicinity among blacks. Add in the fact that the first black president was on the ballot in 2012 and Romney was a rich white older guy from the business class and you can imagine how some very, very Democratic black precincts might vote in lockstep.

The larger point, though, is that in a state as big as Pennsylvania, where 5.6 million ballots were cast four years ago, the difference in a 10-point race is upwards of 250,000 votes. Democrats would need to engineer voter fraud on a massive scale to duplicate that advantage. And voter fraud later wouldn’t explain the consistent blowout margins that the pollsters are seeing right now. How are four different polls being “rigged” to show Clinton pulling away?

Maybe the “Pennsylvania’s gonna cheat” talking point is better understood less as a bona fide argument than a pure coping mechanism:

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change…

Sitting with [Karl] Rove in the Manhattan apartment of a mutual friend, the casino magnate Steve Wynn, Mr. Trump said [in May] he would compete in states like Oregon, which has not voted Republican since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide. Mr. Rove later told people he believed Mr. Trump was confused and scared in anticipation of the general election, according to people who have heard Mr. Rove’s account.

A few weeks later, when Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey brokered a meeting at Trump Tower between Mr. Trump and governors from around the country, Mr. Trump offered a desultory performance, bragging about his poll numbers, listening passively as the governors talked about their states and then sending them on their way.

That same NYT story claims that, at two meetings with top donors last month, Trump spent most of the time going around the room asking whom he should tap for VP instead of reassuring them about his campaign strategy or policy platform. He’s spending today, by the way, in … Connecticut, with a rally scheduled tonight in Fairfield. Only once in the last five presidential elections has the Republican nominee come within 17 points of winning Connecticut. That was in 2004, when sitting president George W. Bush, amid a national victory fueled by support for the war on terror, got crushed there by 10. My theory for why Trump’s bothering to campaign there is that he simply wanted to be home this weekend and chose to justify it with a trip to a neighboring state. But maybe, per what he said to Rove about Oregon, he’s never really abandoned the idea that he’s going to compete in all 50 states, no matter how absurd that seems given the current state of battleground polls. Supposedly he wanted the RNC to open 50 state offices for him. If he’s convinced himself that every state is in play because his rallies are huge, why not take a day to go up to Fairfield and lock down Connecticut?

In lieu of an exit question, an interesting theory from Nate Silver:

The more strongly he and the Hannitys of conservative media emphasize that the election will be rigged, the less reason any Trump supporter has to participate in it. Drew McCoy speculates that Trump might start to wind down his own participation, remaining in the race but cutting back his events to one or two a week eventually. That would be an extra way for him and his fans to spin a blowout — not only was the election “rigged,” they can claim, but because it was so obvious so early that it was rigged, they decided to boycott en masse. He would have won Pennsylvania, but between the cheating and the ensuing boycott, he ended up losing by 15. It’s not his fault. It never is.