Hillary Clinton has notched another debate victory against her controversial opponent Donald Trump, but not before he uttered something that left viewers stunned: he may not concede the election if he loses.
Ms Clinton dismantled many of Mr Trump’s attacks, effectively blocking the Republican nominee from making a late run at the finish from a long way back in the polls.
But during the third debate, which was held in Las Vegas, Mr Trump would not confirm that he would accept the final result.
“I will look at it at the time. I will keep you in suspense,” he said, a threat that one expert described as “terrifying” and “unprecedented” in the history of US politics. He has repeatedly stated that he believes the election is “rigged”.
The New Daily spoke with three US politics watchers, all of whom handed the debate to Clinton after she attacked Trump on his record in business, his approach to foreign policy and attitude to women.
Each expert expressed shock at Trump’s extraordinary refusal to guarantee he would accept the result of the November 8 election should Clinton win.
During the frequently bitter exchange, Mr Trump sought to rally supporters with comments about deporting illegal immigrants, gun rights and overturning abortion rights.
The appeals are unlikely to reverse Ms Clinton’s large lead. Here’s how three experts saw the debate.
Congressional Fellow in the United States House of Representatives and a visiting research scholar in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
“Clinton has won every debate for the same reasons — she is immaculately prepared, she’s ready with facts and figures, she’s well rehearsed on her own attack lines and Trump’s, and that was apparent again in this debate.
However, the narrative to come out of this debate will be Trump’s line that he may not concede the election if he loses, which is a terrifying thing to say.
Saying he won’t hand over is utterly without precedent. It’s one of the sacred tenets of American politics — the loser concedes. Whether this is true or just Trump being Trump we don’t know.
It’s unlikely that Trump won much new support. Trump was solid. He did keep it to the traditional attacks lines against Clinton.
I don’t think Trump has expanded his political network with this debate.
I don’t know whether Clinton did either, but the emphasis is on Trump needing to knock it out of the park and he didn’t do that.
Clinton continues to ride high. Trump might gain by a point or two but he’s still down by five or so points nationally and hasn’t very much time to make it up.
Clinton had the most to lose but did not give up any ground.”
Swinburne University politics expert
“The first few questions played to the conservative voter base – abortion, gun control – it was interesting how Trump had a very definitive position on guns, but not so much on abortion. That may hurt him with conservatives.
It was effective when Clinton commented on the fact that Trump’s tower in Las Vegas was built using Chinese steel. He attacked her for her record in office, but she spoke about how she advocated for equality in the ’70s while Trump was being sued by the US Justice Department.
What will sting Trump will be when Clinton said she was in the situation room as the US was capturing Bin Laden, while he was hosting The Celebrity Apprentice.
Even more damaging was when Trump all but admitted he would not accept the outcome of the election, which was concerning. Trump cannot win the election according to most analysts.
Trump’s biggest strength is himself, but it is also his weakness. Facts play little role in his campaign and his rhetoric and spin works well when he is only with supporters. But in a debate with an opponent you need facts, and the holes in his argument became dramatically transparent.
Whether he intentionally lies or just doesn’t understand issues, who knows.”
Associate Professor Tom Clark,
Victoria University, politics and communication expert
“My hunch is that Trump has lost the election, that was clear in the second debate. Can this third debate do anything to changes people’s minds? I don’t see that happening.
Clinton hammered home her main advantage which I call the ‘courtesy gap’. She just stayed so polite while Trump was so conspicuously rude.
Among political insiders there is a sense that cutting through the formality is better, but actually most voters in modern democracy don’t like that.
People want basic manners and that’s how they want their lives to be run. By civil leaders.
Trump is losing it on such a basic level in this campaign. He certainly gave his supporters enough lines to use against her.
Lots of his supporters after this debate are backing his lines on a conservatively stacked Supreme Court and on gun control.
But he won’t win voters in the middle.”