WHITE PLAINS – Hillary Clinton’s campaign is increasingly preparing for the possibility that Donald Trump may never concede the presidential election should she win, a development that could enormously complicate the crucial early weeks of her preparations to take office.
Aiming to undermine any argument the Republican nominee may make about a “rigged” election, she hopes to roll up a large electoral vote margin in next month’s election. That could repudiate the New York billionaire’s message and project a governing mandate after the bitter, divisive presidential race.
Clinton’s team is also keeping a close eye on statements by national Republican leaders, predicting they could play an important role in how Trump’s accusations of electoral fraud might be perceived. That’s according to several Clinton campaign aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal strategy.
Campaign officials stress they are not taking the outcome of the election for granted. But Clinton and her team have begun thinking about how to position their candidate during the postelection period. Long one of the country’s most polarizing political figures, Clinton has begun telling audiences she’ll need their help in healing the country. She used her closing statement at the final debate to make a plea for postelection unity.
“We need everybody to help make our country what it should be,” she said.
A refusal by Trump to accept the election results would not only upend a basic tenet of American democracy, but also force Clinton to create a new playbook for handling the transfer of power. And a narrow victory would make it more difficult for her to claim substantial political capital at the start of her administration.
“Donald is still going to whine if he loses. But if the mandate is clear, I don’t think many people will follow him,” said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, in an interview Thursday with CNN’s New Day.
While Clinton’s campaign has long focused on maintaining pathways to cross the threshold of 270 electoral votes, it’s now looking to capture an expanded number of states that could also help determine control of the Senate – including Republican-leaning Arizona.
Polls indicate that Clinton has extended her advantage in several toss-up states during the three fall debates, giving her campaign more confidence. She has maintained stable leads in states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado, as well as a narrow edge in Florida and North Carolina.
“They’re looking at it like this: We’ve got these doors of opportunity open, let’s make sure we go down all of them,’” said Jeremy Bird, the national field director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign who is helping Clinton’s team.
If Clinton wins the White House, she will enter as one of the least popular first-term presidents in generations. While Trump has suffered from high unfavorable ratings, particularly among women, Clinton has been hampered by polls showing more than half of the public considers her to be untrustworthy.