OCALA, United States (Dispatches) – President Donald Trump has begun grappling in public with the possibility he may lose the election. At a rally Friday night, he floated the prospect of fleeing abroad. "Could you imagine if I lose?” he said. "I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.”
Trump said this in a jokey manner, but he doesn’t make jokes, at least not in the ordinary manner most people do. His "jokes” are almost always the barely-disguised expression of underlying distress, the New York magazine wrote.
Trump also said he would blame Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if he lost the potentially pivotal battleground state in the presidential election and quipped about firing him – a statement that raised eyebrows due to Trump’s history of accusing Democratic governors of working to tilt the election against him.
"Hey Ron, are we gonna win the state please?” Trump asked DeSantis, a Republican and close ally at a rally in Ocala, Florida, adding that if he doesn’t win "I’m blaming the governor.”
Trump said he would "find a way” to "fire him somehow. I’m going to fire him.”
The comment comes as Trump has baselessly accused Democratic governors of "rigging” the election against him by expanding mail-in voting and maintaining stay-at-home orders, even claiming in December they pose a bigger threat to the election than foreign countries.
Florida stands as a surprising exception to Trump’s unfounded denunciations of mail-in voting as substantially fraudulent – he said in August that mail-in voting is "safe and secure” in the state because of its "great Republican governor.”
Trump made several other shocking statements at his rally, including encouraging supporters to chant "12 more years” instead of "four more years,” and calling on the Justice Department to investigate Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a common foil of his.
Trump often makes similar statements of questionable legality at his rallies, including saying in September he would negotiate for a third term in office because he’s "entitled” to it. He also spoke about issuing an executive order to prevent his Democratic rival Joe Biden from becoming president at a rally in September, exclaiming, "You can’t have this guy as your president.”
Biden said earlier this month he warned governors that their support for him could lead to retaliation from Trump. "I told some governors, don’t endorse me, who wanted to endorse me,” he said during a virtual town hall with the Amalgamated Transit Union. "Don’t endorse me because you’ll pay a penalty. You won’t get what you need from the federal government in terms of COVID prep.”
Trump’s remarks come after a major poll on Thursday put Biden at 11 percentage points ahead. A survey of Florida voters also claimed the Republican is behind by three points.
Addressing supporters in Macon, Georgia, on Friday evening, Trump said: "Running against the worst candidate in the history of American politics puts pressure on me. Could you imagine if I lose? My whole life, what am I going to do?
"I’m going to say, I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics. I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country, I don’t know.”
Political action committee The Lincoln Project, which aims to prevent Trump from being re-elected, shared footage of the president’s claim, saying: "Promise?”
A record 23 million Americans have already voted with less than three weeks to go until the election.
Trump and Biden are set to battle over several key swing states – Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – on November 3.
Biden is leading in all of the battleground states, according to polls – but this doesn’t guarantee a victory for the Democratic candidate. The 2016 election polls predicted a win for Hillary Clinton over Trump, but she was defeated in the electoral college.