Trump redoubles ‘rigged election’ claims

Donald Trump and his allies on Sunday stepped up claims that the US election is being rigged against him, as a new poll showed the Republican presidential candidate drifting further behind his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Mr Trump said on Twitter that the US media was engaged in a co-ordinated effort with the Clinton campaign to undermine his prospects at the polls by running what he claimed were untrue stories of sexual misconduct.

Newt Gingrich, a Trump backer and former House speaker, said on ABC News that without the media’s “unending one-sided assault”, Mr Trump would be 15 points ahead. He added that voters should monitor polling stations, as Mr Trump has repeatedly urged, because elections have been “stolen” in the past.

However, Mike Pence, Mr Trump’s running mate, on Sunday told NBC News the campaign would “absolutely accept the result of the election”.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Mrs Clinton leading Mr Trump by 11 points nationwide as he is dragged down by a steady stream of sexual allegations. As a two-way race, Mrs Clinton has a 20-point lead among women, while Mr Trump is ahead among men by three points, the poll showed.

A separate ABC/Washington Post poll put the contest far closer, with Mrs Clinton at 47 per cent and Mr Trump at 43 per cent.

Mr Trump has for months been suggesting there could be cheating at polling stations, in words that have worried political leaders who fear damage could be done to the democratic process and that Mr Trump is whipping up a dangerous mood among supporters.

However, over the weekend Mr Trump focused his fire on the media, suggesting they were in cahoots with the Clinton campaign to rob him of the election by putting out stories alleging he had groped women. “Election is being rigged by the media, in a co-ordinated effort with the Clinton campaign, by putting stories that never happened into news,” he tweeted on Sunday morning.

In New Hampshire on Saturday Mr Trump told a crowd: “Remember, it’s a rigged system. It’s a rigged election.” He also said that he and Mrs Clinton should take a drug test before their final debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, suggesting without putting forward evidence that his opponent had been “pumped up” at the start of the last debate but had run out of steam.

Tim Kaine, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, on Sunday decried what he said were “wild claims, kind of scorched-earth tactics” by Mr Trump and called on GOP leaders to “stand up for the integrity of the American electoral process”.

Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House, over the weekend said that he was “fully confident” that the states would carry out the election fairly.

Mr Trump has been watching his polling in key swing states deteriorate following the release of a 2005 video in which he boasted of aggressively groping women. In the critical battleground of Ohio, which is central to his hopes of clinching the presidency, he has fallen behind Mrs Clinton in the RealClearPolitics polling average in the past week.

Mr Trump’s situation there has been worsened by an open spat between his Ohio campaign chief and the local Republican party, as Robert Paduchik of the Trump campaign accused Matt Borges, the chairman of the Ohio Republican party, of publicly undercutting Mr Trump.

“Chairman Borges conducted a self-promotional media tour with state and national outlets to criticise our party’s nominee,” Mr Paduchik wrote in a letter to local officials. Mr Trump’s relations with GOP figures across the country has been fraying badly as many politicians distance themselves from him following the release of the 2005 video.

Additional reporting by Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

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