When Wednesday’s debate started, it seemed it might be the best of the three and certainly Trump’s best, says Dan Balz of The Washington Post. But “by the end, it was the story of Trump in Campaign 2016 in microcosm, a series of angry exchanges, interruptions, insults that served to undercut the good he might have accomplished earlier.”
The biggest news out of the debate, which immediately led to banner headlines on the New York Times and Washington Post websites, was Trump’s refusal to say that he’ll accept the results of the election if he loses to Clinton.
Trump had spent the days leading up to the debate warning voters that the election would be "rigged." Asked during the debate whether he would accept the outcome if Clinton emerges victorious, he said: “I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense."
Trump’s comments raise the prospect that millions of his supporters may not accept the election results if he loses, putting the country in uncharted territory, says The Associated Press.
“Free and fair elections, with the vanquished peacefully stepping aside for the victor, have been the underpinning of America’s democratic tradition since the country’s founding 240 years ago,” AP says.
The Republican National Committee immediately disavowed Trump’s remark. There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and election officials across the country have denied and denounced Trump’s charges, AP says.
“Trump has created a roiling force that will make national politics and policymaking an even bumpier ride than it has been in recent years,” says Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College and co-author of "Polarized: The Rise of Ideology in U.S. Politics.” He says it’s “a new populist movement that will vex the GOP and challenge Hillary Clinton throughout her first term, should she be elected.”