But all of the posturing and last-ditch attempts to roll back Biden gains in states Trump carried in 2016 are unlikely to affect the final outcome—or to provide much solace to a president who invested so much of his hard-fought personal brand in winning a second White House term. The outgoing Republican president has long believed that history forever remembers one-term American presidents as “losers,” no matter what else they did, and has expressed his fear of becoming one of those “losers” to people close to him.

“A lot of it is about legacy for him and how he will be remembered. And if he loses, I don’t think he’ll take a defeat [at the hands of Joe] Biden, of all possible people, lightly,” one former senior Trump administration official said in June.

During the final months of the 2020 race, the president repeatedly told top advisers how “pathetic” or “unbelievable” it would be if he somehow lost to Biden, the Democratic nominee who Trump views as a doddering, wholly unworthy adversary, according to three people with knowledge of his private griping.