Gaming out these different scenarios demonstrates that, should Trump dispute the result, a key factor will be the extent to which leading Republican officials at the federal and state level cooperate with him. Brooks pointed out that while Trump has significant power to contest the results as president, he can ultimately only go so far if supporters don’t follow his lead.
For instance, in one of its simulations, the Transition Integrity Project found that GOP leaders might support some of Trump’s claims of fraud or maneuvers to manipulate the vote count, but that didn’t mean they’d go along with every move he tried. For instance, it found many Republicans might oppose an attempt to federalize and deploy the National Guard. And in Foley’s scenario, much hinged on what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans — including Pence — chose to do when it came to deciding which Pennsylvania electors should count.
The relative closeness of the election is a factor here, too. In a different simulation the Transition Integrity Project looked at that put Biden in a stronger position on election night, Trump attracted less support from Republican leaders and Biden’s campaign was able to get some degree of bipartisan cooperation so that the country didn’t slide into a full-blown electoral crisis. Still, throughout its different scenarios, the project found it likely that the Trump campaign would try to raise enough doubts about the vote so as to undermine what might even seem like a clear result. Considering Trump claimed millions of people illegally voted when he won in 2016, it doesn’t take much to imagine he’d do the same this year if he thought it would improve his chances of winning a contested election. That’s one reason researchers at the Transition Integrity Project rank Trump’s allegations of voter fraud among the most dangerous threats currently facing the election.