WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday (Oct 18) slapped down Mr Donald Trump’s claim that the 2016 presidential race is rigged, telling the Republican nominee to “stop whining” and get on with his campaign.
In language usually used to scold a moody teenager, Mr Obama discarded diplomatic decorum and skewered the mogul from the Rose Garden in front of visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Mr Trump has ramped up conspiracies about America’s election system as his poll numbers have plummeted in the wake of sexual assault allegations.
He trails about around seven points nationwide and bookmakers in Europe – where political betting is legal – have already begun to pay out on a Clinton win.
The White House is increasingly concerned that Mr Trump and his supporters will not recognise the outcome of the election, plunging the country into a political crisis.
According to a poll by Politico and Morning Consult, 41 per cent of American voters, including 73 per cent of Republicans, now believe the election could actually be stolen from Mr Trump.
“I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented,” Mr Obama said.
“If, whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else? Then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job,” he added.
Addressing Mr Trump’s allegations of “large scale voter fraud”, Mr Obama told a news conference: “There’s no evidence that that has happened in the past, or that there are instances in which that will happen this time.
“I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”
The withering riposte comes on the eve of the third and final presidential debate.
With three weeks until the Nov 8 election, this may be Mr Trump’s last chance to make a positive mark on millions of voters.
Campaigning in Colorado on Tuesday, a slightly subdued Trump indicated his scorched-earth tactics would continue.
“We’ve only just begun to fight, believe me,” he said. “This is our final shot, folks. In four years it’s over. You’re never going to be able to win. It’s tilting. It’s going to be a one-party system. This is your final shot.”
Mr Trump doubled-down on his vote rigging claims, saying that “non-citizens” might decide the election and “voter fraud is all too common” in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and St Louis – which have large African-American populations.
“Take a look at some of these cities where you see things happening that are horrendous,” Mr Trump said, going on the defensive, “and if you talk about them, they say bad things about you. They call you a racist".
“By the way, speak of that, nobody will do more for the African-American citizens of this country than Donald Trump. Nobody. Nobody,” Mr Trump said, referring to himself in the third person.
Experts and Republican elected officials have denounced Mr Trump for his accusations of voter fraud, prompting the nominee to turn on his own party.
On Tuesday, he went a step further and called for a term limit on serving in the US Senate or House of Representatives.
Mrs Clinton’s campaign believes Mr Trump’s hot rhetoric has helped them – not only to motivate supporters, but shift undecided voters in to their camp.
“We know that he thought that strategy of scorched earth would depress our vote, but if anything, we have found that it’s helped to motivate our voters,” said Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri.
There are now increasing signs that Democrats are beginning to target traditionally Republican states in a bid to run up the score and help win legislative races that could decide who controls Congress.
On Thursday First Lady Michelle Obama will campaign in Arizona, which has not voted Democrat since Mr Bill Clinton’s landslide win against Mr Bob Dole in 1996.