The reason this potential opening to prematurely declare victory exists is that more Democrats are voting by mail than Republicans, and in some key states like Pennsylvania, the gerrymandered Republican-controlled legislature has blocked the early processing of mail ballots before Election Day. This means that in some states the early vote count should favor Trump even if he loses by a lot of votes when all the votes are counted. According to calculations by FiveThirtyEight, we could be in a situation where Trump is ahead by as much as 16 points on election night in Pennsylvania, only to see a loss of 5 points or more when all the ballots are counted within about a week of the election: a 21-point swing.

Trump’s blatant telegraphing of this strategy through leaks to Axios is a blessing in disguise. The public is now going to be hearing from the media about Trump’s plans over the next few days and learn more about why election night vote totals are not likely to reflect the final results if the election is close.

The strategy is not going to work. The networks and news organizations are prepared for this, and Americans have learned to discount anything the president says. Most are inoculated against his lies about voting. And assuming there are no major foul-ups in how the rest of Election Day voting goes, it is hard to imagine any legal strategy that will lead courts to order a halt to the counting of ballots that have arrived before Election Day (even if there could still be litigation over late-arriving ballots). So far, all of the Trump and Republican suits aimed at stopping the easing of voting rules during the pandemic on grounds of a risk of fraud have failed miserably, and any postelection attempt on these grounds should fail too.