I spent Tuesday covering Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes as she tried to reassure Commonwealth voters that the upcoming General Election is not “rigged” and any comments made by Donald Trump were “inappropriate” and baseless. The Democrat state official, who describes Hillary Clinton as a mentor and friend, also eluded to the Republican Nominee’s comments during a hearing of the Kentucky Election Integrity Task Force.
When asked about technical concerns and potential hacking, Secretary Grimes described an election system that’s being closely guarded. The voting machines, she said, are not connected to the internet so there’s no chance someone can hack them to impact vote totals. She added that it would take a “Herculean” effort on the ground to do anything that would alter the course of a race.
And Secretary Grimes was not alone in rebutting Mr. Trump. Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio also took turns reassuring voters in their states that the controversial businessman’s bluster was not based in reality.
But what drove me to this questions was what happened on my commute home. I was listening to a radio report recapping the “rigged election” controversy that included statements made by President Barack Obama describing Trump as “whining” before the election was over.
President Obama added, “And if he got the most votes then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure that the American people benefit from effective government. And it would be my job to welcome Mr. Trump, regardless of what he’s said about me or my differences with him on my opinions, and escort him over to the Capitol in which there would be a peaceful transfer of power.”
That’s when it hit me, could the “rigged election” rant have backfired on Donald Trump’s critics? Could they have fallen for a political Rope-A-Dope?
Working in the hometown of Muhammad Ali, I have a ton of respect for the brilliance of the GOAT. The Rope-A-Dope may be his best-known strategy. In 1974’s Rumble in the Jungle, Ali tricked George Foreman into chasing him to the ropes. Foreman, who was favored, pounded away as The Greatest took a defensive stance. It looked like he had no chance but Ali was really resting allowing the ropes to absorb the energy of the thundering blows from Foreman. The Heavyweight Champ wore himself out and Ali knocked him out in the 8th round.
This is not to compare Trump to Ali, but chew on this; what if, by raising the issue of a “rigged election”, Donald Trump tricked his opponents into pounding out a narrative they can’t escape on the morning after Election Day?
By opponents on both side of the aisle rebutting Trump's allegations, have they legitimized a Donald Trump victory? Has President Obama now given himself no escape from welcoming Mr. Trump “regardless”?
Most analysts, this election cycle, doubt Donald Trump and his campaign staff could even devise such a strategy. Many have questioned nearly every move Trump has made especially when it comes to self-inflicted trouble on the campaign trail. He appears to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on days in which Hillary Clinton stumbles.
Donald Trump’s supporters question polls that show the Republican losing ground. Some have suggested that a “silent majority” is not being taken into consideration and they will deliver a shocking result November 8th.
If Trump does win, whether “rigged elections” was strategic or accidental, statements made by his opponents may come back as arguments for people to quit “whining” and accept the outcome.