Donald Trump’s chief Arizona surrogate is defending his comments that he won’t commit to abiding by the results of the election.
“He’s not going to concede any kind of election before he knows the results,’’ said former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. “It’s no different than Bush v. Gore,’’ Brewer continued, referring to the close race in 2000 that was not resolved for weeks until the Supreme Court finally halted further recounting of questioned ballots in Florida.
In that case, however, it was never in question whether Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Al Gore would accede to what was the final Electoral College tally, even with Gore actually winning the popular vote.
But Trump’s comments have left some Arizona Republican politicians distancing themselves from the remarks.
During the 90-minute debate, Chris Wallace of Fox News noted Trump has said during the campaign the election is “rigged.’’ So he asked Trump if he’ll accept the outcome.
“I will look at it at the time,’’ Trump responded, saying “the media is so dishonest and so corrupt and the pile-on is so amazing.’’ He claimed there are “millions of people’’ who are illegally registered to vote and that Hillary Clinton “should not be allowed to run’’ based on what he claims are crimes she committed.
Nor was Trump dissuaded by Wallace’s comments about the long tradition of “peaceful transition of power’’ and “that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner.’’
“What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time,’’ Trump responded. “I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?’’
Clinton called that “horrifying.’’ But Brewer, who attended Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas, said she sees it through a different lens.
“He’s going to concede when the results and known and certified and verified,’’ she said. But Brewer, who before becoming governor was secretary of state and Arizona’s chief election official, said Trump cannot ignore “allegations in some states that there has been some hanky-panky.’’
“If there’s hanky-panky, he’d have a reason to question the results,’’ she said, not specifying what would fit into that category.
Trump doubled-down on Thursday, telling supporters in Ohio he “will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win.’’
The refusal drew a sharp reaction from Sen. John McCain who ran for president in 2008 — and conceded defeat to Barack Obama. McCain, in a statement, said he didn’t like the results.
“But I had a duty to concede, and I did so without reluctance,’’ he said.
“A concession isn’t just an exercise in graciousness,’’ McCain continued. “It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader’s first responsibility.’’
McCain said in every previous election the loser congratulates the winner “and calls them ‘my president.”
“This election must not be any different,’’ he said.
Jeff Flake, the state’s other Republican senator, had a shorter response, tweeting out after the debate that Trump’s refusal to say he will accept the election results “is beyond the pale.’’
Current Secretary of State Michele Reagan, also a Republican, sidestepped the direct question about Trump’s statement. Instead, she insisted that no one will have reason to question the results, at least those from Arizona.
“Signature verification, proper identification at the polls and multiple layers of system safeguards make manipulating the outcome of an election exceedingly difficult,’’ she said in written response to the query. Reagan said county officials test equipment before each election and state law requires it remain “secure and under constant surveillance.’’
“Combined with audits and full paper trail after each election, we are confident in our election systems, but remain vigilant,’’ she said.
Daniel Scarpinato, press aide to Gov. Doug Ducey, gave an equally non-responsive answer to the question about what his boss thinks about Trump’s refusal to say he will abide by the results. Instead, Scarpinato mentioned the opportunities for Arizonans to vote, including early.
Robert Graham, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, said he does not interpret what Trump said as meaning the candidate would refuse to honor the results. But Graham, who also attended the Wednesday debate, suggested perhaps Trump’s verbiage was a bit inartful.
“This guy hasn’t made a career out of being a polished orator,’’ he said. “The way it’s better said that if it’s a close race, you wouldn’t expect anybody to concede,’’ he said.
And Graham said that as much as he agrees with Trump about Clinton being unqualified and possibly guilty of a crime with destruction of emails and lying to the FBI about it, in the end, none of that matters.
“If she wins, game over,’’ he said. “Nobody should challenge it.’’
And Graham said he’s sure that Trump agrees.
“He just wants to make sure that people are playing by the rules,’’ he said.
Brewer, for her part, said the whole discussion of what Trump might do is meaningless.
“He’s probably not going to have to worry about it because he’s going to win,’’ she said. And Brewer continues to predict Trump will take Arizona despite recent polls showing Clinton with an edge.