After Trump’s actions over the past few weeks, though, I wonder if there’s some tradeoff between Trump’s chances of winning legitimately and his willingness to engage in authoritarian rhetoric and behavior, even if it probably wouldn’t succeed at stealing the election. It’s not like this is coming entirely out of left field; Trump also said in 2016 that he wouldn’t necessarily respect the election results. But his recent statements have come at a moment of increasing peril for his campaign. It’s hard to know for sure, but I think Trump’s comments might be more tempered if he were 2 points ahead in Wisconsin instead of 7 points down.
It’s not easy to see which cards Trump has left to play or which contingencies could work in his favor enough for him to win — other than if the polls have been wrong all along…
If Trump intuits that he’s unlikely to win legitimately — it’s not hard to imagine him escalating his anti-democratic rhetoric and behavior. It’s also not hard to imagine this rhetoric further eroding his position in polls. It’s highly unpopular in focus groups (yes, take those with a huge grain of salt) and Trump’s polling over the past several days has been particularly bad (although there’s been a lot of other news, too).
So we could be headed for a vicious cycle where Trump increasingly gives up on trying to persuade or turn out voters and voters increasingly give up on him. But from a polling standpoint, this is one of the clearer elections to diagnose: Biden isn’t home-free, but he’s in a strong position. Nonetheless, the outlook for what’s actually in store for America has rarely been more cloudy.