‘My biggest risk’: Trump Says This One Thing Could Cost Him Reelection

President Donald Trump called mail-in voting the biggest threat to his reelection and said his campaign’s multimillion-dollar legal effort to block expanded ballot access could determine whether he wins a second term.

In an Oval Office interview Thursday focusing on the 2020 election, the president also warned his party in blunt terms not to abandon him and cast Hillary Clinton as a more formidable opponent than Joe Biden, despite Biden’s commanding lead in polls.

The president’s assertion that mail-in voting will endanger his reelection comes as states across the country are rushing to accommodate remote voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of voters could be disenfranchised if they decide to stay home on Election Day rather than risk contracting the virus at crowded polling stations.

“My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits,” Trump said. “We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don’t win those lawsuits, I think — I think it puts the election at risk.”

Trump was asked a two-part question during the interview: Would a substantial amount of mail-in voting — which is widely expected because of coronavirus — cause him to question the legitimacy of the election? And would he accept the results no matter what?

“Well, you can never answer the second question, right? Because Hillary kept talking about she’s going to accept, and they never accepted it. You know. She lost too. She lost good.” Clinton conceded the day after the 2016 election.

Trump struck a firmer note last week in an interview with Fox News, when he said he would leave office peacefully if he lost.

The president’s rare admission of concern about his political future comes at the most precarious moment of his presidency. Polls have shown the president trailing in an array of key states — some of which haven’t been lost by a Republican in decades — amid criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his response to the protests against police brutality.

Now, with Republicans fighting to keep their Senate majority, lawmakers running in competitive races are having to decide whether to align themselves with the president or risk his wrath by creating daylight. Trump made clear those who choose the latter will pay a heavy price.

Joined by top aides, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump put Senate Republicans on notice: Running away from him would only trigger a revolt by his loyalists.

“If they don’t embrace, they’re going to lose, because, you know, I have a very hard base. I have the strongest base people have ever seen,” said Trump, who met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week to discuss the party’s prospects in key Senate races.

Trump is keenly aware of how he stacks up against other Republicans on the ballot this fall. At one point during the interview, White House Political Director Brian Jack handed the president a document showing how he had fared better in several primaries this spring than a handful of Republican senators he shared the ballot with in their home states. Included on the chart was North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents up for reelection this November. While Tillis received 78 percent in the state’s March primary, Trump got 94 percent, it noted.

“Wow, that’s great in North Carolina, huh?” Trump remarked as he looked over the sheet.

Senate Republicans have largely remained in lockstep with the president, but there have been a few exceptions. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, one of the party’s most vulnerable lawmakers, has yet to say whether she backs Trump’s reelection and didn’t appear with him when he visited her home state last week. Michigan GOP Senate candidate John James recently told black community leaders that he disagreed with Trump on “plenty, plenty of issues.”

During the interview, Trump rattled off a list of senators who lost their seats after separating themselves from him. He recalled ending the political careers of Tennessee Republican Bob Corker (“So, anyway, I went after him,” he said. “No longer a senator.”) and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake (“He went from 54 percent to 3.”). Nevada Republican Dean Heller “went down” in the general election (“How did it work out for the great senator of Nevada? Not too good.”).

“We will, on occasion, have some senators that want to be cute,” he said. “And they don’t want to embrace their president.”

Much of the president’s focus, though, was on his own race. He portrayed Biden as a weaker candidate than Clinton. Clinton, Trump said, was “obviously smarter” than Biden. And after savaging Clinton for having “no stamina” in 2016, the president indicated he thought she had more energy than the 77-year-old Biden.

“I can tell you a lot about Hillary,” Trump said. “She had a lot of energy and she was smart.”

Even as coronavirus cases are rising in many places, the president insisted the virus is…

Continue reading at POLITICO.com

 

 

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