"Extraordinary," "breathtaking," and "stunning" are among the words being used to describe Donald Trump's biggest moment in Wednesday night's debate—and they're not being used to praise him. Trump, asked whether he would continue America's cherished tradition of peaceful transfers of power, refused to say whether he will accept the results of the election if he loses. "I'll keep you in suspense," he told moderator Chris Wallace. Hillary Clinton called the remarks "horrifying." A roundup of coverage:
- Reuters—which describes the remarks as "challenging a cornerstone of American democracy"—reports that many Republicans were among those condemning Trump, though Ben Carson defended him, saying the message was that Trump would say something about "obvious fraud." "He didn't say he wouldn't accept it," Carson added. "He said he would evaluate it at the time."
- This debate was "far and away his best performance"—but it is "unfortunate that he chose to challenge the veracity of the democratic process in America" because that could be all people remember, writes Doug Schoen at Fox. Trump "made history as the first major party candidate to say something like this before an election," he writes. "And history will always look back on this with horror."
- According to John Cassidy at the New Yorker, Trump's real message was "I'm going to lose"—and he is trying to find somebody to blame for the "impending defeat." Trump "entered the race as can-do businessman intent on restoring the country to greatness," Cassidy writes. "He's going out as a sore loser, raving at the world, threatening to unleash chaos."
- Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate wonders: Who cares whether Donald Trump accepts the result? The latest polls suggest the margins of victory will be big enough to render any challenge in the courts "implausible," he writes. And his fellow Republicans, like other politicians, "are not known for their loyalty to decisively unpopular lost causes."
- At the Washington Post, Philip Bump takes a close look at the safeguards that make rigging American presidential elections almost impossible. "It's not just that people need to have confidence in the process, it's that there's no reason for them not to," he writes.
- The New York Times editorial board accuses Trump of going from "insulting the intelligence of the American voter to insulting American democracy itself." "His trashing of the democratic process, in service of his own ego, risks lasting damage to the country, and politicians of both parties should recoil from him and his cynical example," they write.
- Vox offers an example of how to concede graciously: The letter George HW Bush left in the Oval Office for Bill Clinton after losing his re-election bid. "You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well," Bush wrote. "Your success is now our country's success. I am rooting for you."
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