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Donald Trump weighs post-election options if he loses

Philip Bump on 2016 race

Donald Trump is considering doubling back on his debate-night promise that he would “absolutely” support the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, even if Hillary Clinton is victorious.

In an interview with the New York Times published early Saturday, Trump discussed whether he would accept the results of the election if he lost.

“We’re going to have to see. We’re going to see what happens. We’re going to have to see,” Trump told the Times.

That’s a far cry from what the Republican nominee said Monday, during the first presidential debate of the general election.

Key moments from Trump-Clinton debate

After Clinton asserted that she “certainly will support the outcome of this election,” debate moderator Lester Holt posed the same question to Trump.

Trump’s response: “Look, here’s the story. I want to make America great again. I’m going to be able to do it. I don’t believe Hillary will. The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her.”

Trump has long claimed that the U.S. political system was “rigged,” but in recent months, the business mogul has propagated fears that the election itself would be unfairly stacked against him.

“I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged,” Trump said at a rally in Columbus, Ohio, in August. “I have to be honest. I hear more and more that the election on November 8th. Can you believe we’re almost there?”

Election officials -- and even President Obama -- have pushed back on the charge, calling it “ridiculous.”

“I don’t even really know where to start. Of course the elections will not be rigged. What does that mean?” Mr. Obama told reporters that same month. “That’s ridiculous. That doesn’t make any sense and I don’t think anybody takes that seriously.”  

Trump also previewed a new Clinton attack line in his Times interview, suggesting that he would bring up former President Clinton and his marital infidelities during his next debate with the Democratic nominee.

Trump slammed Mr. Clinton for his relations with Monica Lewinsky and his other sexual exploits, claiming that they “brought shame onto the presidency, and Hillary Clinton was there defending him all along.”

“Hillary Clinton was married to the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics,” he added about Mr. Clinton. “Hillary was an enabler, and she attacked the women who Bill Clinton mistreated afterward. I think it’s a serious problem for them, and it’s something that I’m considering talking about more in the near future.”

Trump, who has recently come under fire for his disparaging attacks on a former Miss Universe, defended this campaign tactic, and said of his Democratic rival, “She’s nasty, but I can be nastier than she ever can be.”

Of his own marital infidelities -- well-documented when he began a relationship with actress and model Marla Maples (who would later become his second wife) while he was still married to Ivana Trump -- Trump dismissed their relevance to his current campaign.

“I don’t talk about it. I wasn’t president of the United States. I don’t talk about it,” he said, before directing the conversation back to Mr. Clinton. “When you think of the fact that he was impeached, the country was in turmoil, turmoil, absolute turmoil. He lied with Monica Lewinsky and paid a massive penalty.”