Donald Trump occasionally claims that the election in November is rigged and stated during the 3rd presidential debate that he "will keep you in suspense".

Election Day hasn't even arrived and he is hinting that he might not accept it. Many Republicans have denounced it, including Paul Ryan. Even his running mate Mike Pence and his daughter Ivanka Trump doesn't agree with him.

Usually, a candidate will only challenge the results after it is out, not 2-3 weeks before the election.

So, why does he refuse to commit that he will accept the outcome of the election?

  • 3
    Please do not post comments which have nothing to do with the question.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 14:41
  • 1
    To closers: this question seems like non-opinion-based, under "Good Subjective, bad Subjective" guidelines.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:07
  • 6
    This question is not opinion-based. It could be authoritatively answered by references Donald Trump's comments (if he has made such comments). Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 16:22
  • 1
    @user4012 I'd argue the question is very opinion based. But your answer does a very nice job of salvaging the question.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 16:17
  • Obviously in retrospect, he only wanted to dispute it if he lost. Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 11:09

3 Answers 3


DISCLAIMER: Obviously, there's no way to tell for sure.

However, there are many likely/possible factors:

  1. He wants to leave his options open. All else being equal, having an option to contest the election as fraud is better (if your goal is to win), than deliberately, in advance, canceling out that option by a public declaration.

    Not because of this election, or Trump, or anything else, but because options are ALWAYS valuable.

    (I'm leaving aside secondary considerations such as whether his stance may have negative consequences, meaning it's not Ceterus parabus).

  2. The above point was meant as "options in a political sense". But it's also useful to him as individual.

    People have complex motivations. If nothing else, that option has value for Trump the individual (he can negotiate something nice for himself, in exchange for accepting, after the election is over, from Hillary - and don't think Trump is not smart and experienced and cynical enough not to realize that).

  3. He doesn't like to do what he's told. This much seems fairly obvious about his personality.

    He may very well see the demand to accept election results as yet another unreasonable "do this" from people he has no inclination to hear demands from (establishment, media, political opponents, you name it)

  4. He got as far as he did with the electorate, in part, on a platform of winning and being a fighter.

    The base that votes for him, in large part, is voting not for specific policies, but for "can do", "win at all costs", attitude, after being saddled for 2 decades with - using Trump's terminology - "losers" (specific ways of losing vary - either letting the opposition dictate the terms of discourse and the struggle, by refusing to use all available tactics; or always folding in negotiations like GOP in the House kept doing with Obama; or simply not getting desired outcomes - and specifics are largely irrelevant to the overall sentiment).

    As such, should he decide to do a "loser" move by pre-emptively cutting off "Not accepting" tactic, it will hurt him with his base's engagement and morale.

  5. The overall "fraud" / "steal election" narrative is part of motivating the base.

    If they feel like the election outcome is threatened by said alleged fraud, they will be more motivated to work to elect him (volunteer, donate, make sure people turn out to vote).

    Remember that the country is split close to 50-50, and in a lot of close swing states, turnout is key to winning, and that's driven in large part by motivation.

  6. This keeps him in spotlight.

    Being in spotlight is good for his candidacy in general (especially for something that isn't majorly negative for him, or playing into Hillary's typical negative narratives, which this one isn't).

    And something his ego greatly desires as well.

    The exact quote in the OP's question ("will keep you in suspense") seems like strong proof this is part of motivation.

  7. This approach, while having possible upsides listed above, has very little downsides for him.

    Yeah, I suppose there will be indignation from the usual suspects (if the "news headlines" popup from Yahoo! news on my phone, timely showing just 5 minutes ago, is any indication). But seriously, does anyone really expect anyone to stop voting for Trump based on this (or to suddenly decide to vote for Hillary if they were undecided)?

    This 100% in line with anything so far known about Trump, and definitely not an earth shattering revelation about his character or tactics (remember the kerfuffle about GOP nomination acceptance vs. 3d party run if he loses the primaries?).

    Yes, this approach may have hurt some "moderate" (or as he would say, "loser"), candidate from GOP. I don't realistically see it hurting Trump.

  • I read most of your answer and then finally realized this was about the 2016 election. 🙃 Commented Oct 2, 2020 at 19:53
  • 1
    @Panzercrisis - Nothing in this answer (other than Hilllary's name) is really 2016 specific and applies 100% to 2020 - and large parts of the answer aren't even Trump specific (#3, #4 and partly #2/#7 are the only Trump specific parts)
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 2, 2020 at 22:45
  • Yeah, even when I first saw Hillary's name mentioned, it still didn't strike me as something from 2016. It wasn't until seeing her mentioned multiple times that it started to dawn on me. Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 0:58

We obviously can't look inside candidates' minds (I'm not sure if I would like to) but here's some deduction:

Trump is not in the habit of backing down from claims. I'm not sure if there are many (or even any) real examples of him having done so.

In this case, he has claimed several times that the election is being rigged against him. He may fear that if he promises to accept the result unconditionally it will be seen as contradicting his own claim that the election is being rigged. After all, why would a guy like him accept what, according to his own claims, would be a result of election fraud?

To clarify, it's possible he is trying to be consistent with his claim that he already knows the election is being rigged. He is alleging that someone are trying to steal the victory from him by means of election fraud. It would follow from this claim that a Hillary victory would be a result of fraud. If we accept this premise (which Trump apparently does, since he has repeated the claim several times), then it follows that he would contest the outcome of such fraud.

Is there any truth to Trump's claims?

In this answer I had previously refrained from assessing at all whether the claim of rigging is accurate or not. However, after having seen undercover journalism videos by James O'Keefe, notably Rigging the Election - Video II: Mass Voter Fraud, I will at least say that such claims should not be dismissed offhand. At least two of the people featured in that video have now lost their jobs in the aftermath of the videos. As one commenter noted, "Scott Foval admitted to mass voter fraud on behalf of the DNC." I don't see any reasonable interpretation of, (or indeed, context for) the quotes from that video that can make one conclude otherwise. Various outlets have questioned the methods of said videos, and the integrity of their creators, but I don't see any way even isolated quotes from these videos can not be seen as extremely damning.

The Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin (Democrat) has also been caught on tape this year talking about serious voting fraud in New York City.

Trump has referred to this journalism several times.

Apparently, this group of journalists has also received donations from the Trump Foundation. While that would impact their perceived neutrality, it does not invalidate the video and audio evidence they were able to collect.

Exactly how widespread such phenomena are or have been is obviously subject to speculation.

Disclaimer: This answer may be biased to some degree. I have a strong personal dislike of (if not disgust for) both major candidates in this election, and while I have tried to avoid it, my judgements and/or wording may still be somewhat subjective.

  • 6
    Considering that Scott Foval admitted to mass voter fraud on behalf of the DNC... Trump's assertion that it's rigged would be correct. youtu.be/hDc8PVCvfKs ; thegatewaypundit.com/2016/10/…
    – mbomb007
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 13:59
  • 6
    It shows that there has been an ongoing pattern of evidence for "rigging" the election, with the DNC sabotaging Bernie Sanders, with illegal immigrants voting, and with people being bused across state borders to vote. His assertion that it's rigged isn't unfounded, and I think that's important to note in the answer, IMHO.
    – mbomb007
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 14:10
  • 3
    @Fiksdal - there is indeed evidence (to add to the pattern, see leaked memos that DHS is fast-tracking immigrant citizenship to happen before election). I deliberately excluded that from my answer for tactical reasons (I didn't want to hurt an extensive answer by downvotes from many P.SE users who vote on pure partisan lines), but there's enough evidence to post a separate answer showing that Trump has a strong basis for claiming there may be fraud - how impactful, if of course impossible to quantify at the moment.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 14:33
  • 1
    @rougon Yes. And it is Trump's whole rationale for refusing to unconditionally accept, and thus extremely relevant to this answer.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 11:39
  • 1
    @rougon I agree! It would be very useful if someone asked it as a separate question. And in a way that would ward off the "primarily opinion based" trigger happy close voters.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 11:43

Donald Trump has had to deal with negative publicity due to leaked tape about sexual conduct with women and some women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. News reports on these sort of issues tends to drown out anything else Trump would want to say that in his opinion would be more relevant. Also, in his opinion Clinton is not scrutinized as much as he is by the media.

It's then possible to regain some level of control over the news reports by making a statement that is going to be perceived as being even more controversial than the allegations of sexual misconduct and the leaked tape. By making a slightly ambiguous statement about not recognizing the election results, it is guaranteed that this will flood the news reports, flushing out the old talking points. New questions are raised that can only be answered by spokespersons working for the Trump campaign or by Trump himself, they can then use that opportunity to talk about other issues they want to talk about.

  • 1
    Haha, yeah, +1. Considering Trump's largely conservative voter base, he'd probably prefer media talking about pretty much anything other than sex scandals.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 19:08
  • 1
    He certainly succeeded at that. After the debate finished, nearly every national and international newspaper website I looked at had his "won't say if he'll accept it" statement as the front-and-center headline. (The exceptions were a German newspaper that focused on the "nasty woman" statement instead, and RT, which ignored it entirely.)
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 1:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .