In a remarkable statement that seemed to cast doubt on American democracy, Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he might not accept the results of next month’s election if he felt it was rigged against him — a stand that Hillary Clinton blasted as “horrifying” at their final and caustic debate on Wednesday.
Mr. Trump, under enormous pressure to halt Mrs. Clinton’s steady rise in opinion polls, came across as repeatedly frustrated as he tried to rally conservative voters with hard-line stands on illegal immigration and abortion rights. But he kept finding himself drawn onto perilous political territory by Mrs. Clinton and the debate’s moderator, Chris Wallace.
He sputtered when Mrs. Clinton charged that he would be “a puppet” of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia if elected. He lashed out repeatedly, saying that “she’s been proven to be a liar on so many different ways” and that “she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime” over her State Department email practices. And by the end of the debate, when Mrs. Clinton needled him over Social Security, Mr. Trump snapped and said, “Such a nasty woman.”
Mrs. Clinton was rarely rattled, and made a determined effort to rise above Mr. Trump’s taunts while making overtures to undecided voters. She particularly sought to appeal to Republicans and independents who have doubts about Mr. Trump, arguing that she was not an opponent of the Second Amendment as her opponent claimed, and promising to be tougher and shrewder on national security than Mr. Trump.
But it was Mr. Trump’s remark about the election results that stood out, even in a race that has been full of astonishing moments.
Mr. Trump insisted, as he has in recent days, that the general election has been rigged against him, and he twice refused to say that he would accept its result.“I will look at it at the time,” Mr. Trump said. “I will keep you in suspense.”
“That’s horrifying,” Mrs. Clinton replied. “I am appalled that someone who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that position.”
Mrs. Clinton then ticked off the number of times he had deemed a system rigged when he suffered a setback, noting he had even called the Emmy Awards fixed when his show, “The Apprentice,’’ was passed over.
“It’s funny, but it’s also really troubling,” she said. “That is not the way our democracy works.”
With 20 days left before Election Day and early voting already underway in Florida, Ohio and several other key states, the debate felt less like an argument between equals than a last-ditch attempt by a fading candidate, Mr. Trump, to save himself.
Mr. Trump sought throughout the debate to recover from a politically damaging three weeks. He has been unable to gain traction in the polls from his strategy of assailing the Clintons as corrupt and immoral; the news media as biased and bent on rigging the election against him; and the nine women who have come forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual advances as liars and, in some cases, unattractive.
Mr. Trump said, in response to a question from the debate moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, that the claims of the women had been “debunked” and that they had been put forward by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.
(Source nytimes http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/20/us/politics/presidential-debate.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=span-abc-region®ion=span-abc-region&WT.nav=span-abc-region)