In what is becoming an all too familiar pattern, Donald Trump spent the day after the third and final debate simultaneously declaring victory and melting down.
Trump woke up to see that the initial post-debate polls had been released and unanimously showed him losing. Making matters worse, data journalist Nate Silver had penned a devastating piece for FiveThirtyEight that flatly stated the many reasons why Clinton “finished off Trump last night” at the debate.
There are less than three weeks left in the campaign, and there are no more guaranteed opportunities for Trump or Clinton to command a huge public audience, as they do at the conventions and the debates (although, they’ll get plenty of attention, of course). Millions of people have already voted. Trump has had a significant advertising deficit, and an even more significant deficit in terms of his turnout operation. He’ll probably spend a significant chunk of the remaining news cycles quarreling over his contention that the election is rigged, and with the numerous women who have accused him of sexual assault. He doesn’t have an obvious — or even a not-so-obvious — path to the presidency.
Panic has begun to set in. None of his publicity stunts work. Inviting Obama’s half-brother didn’t “rattle” Hillary. His angry “nasty woman” sneer was being used against him. Moments before the start time, Giuliani, his number one defender, had set the internet on fire by grabbing a female journalist. He sniffled repeatedly throughout an extended riff on drugs. He looked unhinged. Unprepared. Unpresidential.
It was so obvious Trump lost that just seconds after it ended, that even Trump seemed to know it. Cameras caught Trump quietly grappling with his own demise – and not with any dignity.
So when faced with this miserable reality, Trump did what he always did: Claimed all of it was a giant conspiracy against him. This time the conspiracy involved convincing us that registered Republican and long-time Fox News host Chris Wallace was secretly working with the Clinton campaign to feed her the answers to the debate questions ahead of time. Let that sink in.
Why didn't Hillary Clinton announce that she was inappropriately given the debate questions – she secretly used them! Crooked Hillary.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2016
And it wasn’t the first time he claimed Hillary had gotten help in a debate.
Voter fraud! Crooked Hillary Clinton even got the questions to a debate, and nobody says a word. Can you imagine if I got the questions?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2016
On both occasions, Trump may have been referring to a conspiracy that throughout the debates Clinton’s podiums have been tampered with to give her the answers with – don’t laugh – a mini-projector hidden inside. Indeed, that was the theory that Bill Mitchell, Trump’s most useful idiot, was pushing all morning.
Look at the angle of Hillary's gaze. She is NOT looking down at her notes, she is looking AT the lit panel. pic.twitter.com/sl3eZEP5b8
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) October 20, 2016
Trump also held a rally in Ohio in which he conflated a long-debunked conspiracy about DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile receiving advanced notice of questions for a town hall Hillary appeared at and last night’s debate.
“In addition, it was just learned that Hillary Clinton was given the exact questions to the previous debate. Word for word. By Donna Brazile.
She was given – think of it. She was given these questions. She used these questions, studied the questions, got the perfect answer for the questions, and never said that she did something that was totally wrong and inappropriate. Hence the name Crooked Hillary.”
Note that a person claiming his opponent cheated is almost certainly a man who knows he lost. Hence the name “former presidential candidate who lost to Hillary Clinton in a landslide and is now a historical footnote, Donald Trump.”
Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images