Over the last several weeks, as Donald Trump's poll numbers have continued to fall, the GOP presidential nominee, as well as his team, have been painstakingly building a backup plan.
It began with Trump ramping up his rhetoric about the election being "rigged." It continued with rumors of a TrumpTV network. Now, Trump says he might not accept the results of the election, and his son, Donald Trump Jr., has implied that his father is the underdog, and that the presidency is beneath him anyway.
This is a tightly-scripted maneuver, intended to maximize any potential profits should Donald Trump lose in November.
The GOP nominee has intensified his criticism of the election process at recent rallies, telling a crowd in New Hampshire Saturday:
"Remember this, it's a rigged election because you have phony people coming up with phony allegations with no witnesses whatsoever. The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her (Clinton) president."
He's been tweeting about it as well:
The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places - SAD— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2016
The addition of Steve Bannon to team Trump in August simply heightened speculation of a possible TrumpTV subscription network. Prior to joining Trump's campaign as CEO, Bannon was the chairman of Breitbart, which is viewed by many as "Trump Pravda." Moreover, Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, allegedly met with a financier recently to discuss TV possibilities.
CNN caught up with Bannon at a Las Vegas airport prior to the debate, but he was coy:
Bannon did not deny talk about a potential "Trump TV" network or streaming service after the election. When asked if there is anything to the rumors, Bannon responded with a smile and said, "Trump is an entrepreneur."
The question came up again later, and he answered in exactly the same way: "Trump is an entrepreneur." Without answering directly, Bannon pointed out Trump's social media prowess on Facebook and Twitter. "Look at the engagement. It's incredible," he said. "They'll go live on Facebook and get a million viewers."
Now, the GOP nominee is saying he may not accept the results of the general election, and his son, Donald Trump Jr., is saying that his father is "learning as he goes," and implying that running for president is really beneath him anyway.
During the final moments of Wednesday's debate, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News reminded Donald Trump that both his running mate, Governor Mike Pence, as well as his daughter, Ivanka, said that he would accept the election results.
Wallace then asked the nominee directly if he'd accept the results on November 8. Trump replied: "I will look at it at the time...I will keep you in suspense." He went on to note the media's obvious bias toward Clinton, and claimed that the voters are seeing through it.
Despite evidence of voter fraud in multiple states, it seems unlikely that such fraud is substantial enough to tilt a presidential election, especially if the margin of victory is sizable. That being said, voter fraud is indeed real, even as the Left continues to wave away such notions.
Finally, it was time for Trump Jr.'s role in the play.
In a post-debate interview with Fox News' Bill Hemmer, Donald Trump Jr. said his father was learning as he goes, and that running for president is a step down (Emphasis added):
"Imagine if he was doing this for his whole life. He'd be the greatest politician in the history of the world, ok? He's learning as he goes because he's a real American. He's been speaking with real Americans from day one. He's not talking at them, he's talking with them. He wants all Americans--cause guess what? Unlike Hillary Clinton, who's gotten very rich by being a politician, peddling American influence, he hasn't. This is only a step down. But he wants to make sure that all Americans, all ethnicities and backgrounds have the same opportunities to do what he's been able to do."
All of this, from Trump's "rigged" rhetoric to his son saying he's the underskilled underdog, and implying the presidency is a "step down," is the groundwork for a post-loss excuse that will translate into a lucrative business opportunity.
It was rigged; he couldn't match Hillary's skill as a career politician; the presidency is beneath him anyway. Follow that up with Bannon, and the growing possibility of a post-election network paid for by voters who are angry, and distrustful of the American electoral system (an anger Trump himself has worked diligently to gin up), and you've got a workable backup plan.