December 14, 2015
In recent years, a large part of the foundation of the GOP strategy has been the assumption that, if you get base voters angry enough and frightened enough, they will show up to vote (even in off year elections) and they will never vote for the Democrat (even when they really dislike the Republican candidate).
Capitalizing on that assumption has always been something of a balancing act, particularly when you constantly attack the legitimacy of the electoral system ("The system is rigged!" "The last election was stolen!" "Make sure to vote!"). With the advent of the Tea Party movement, it's gotten even more difficult to maintain that balance.
All snark aside, when asking why Trump said something these days, the safest answer is generally that he wanted to hear his fans cheer, but it is still reasonable to talk about Trump's rigging comments as part of a strategy because they predate this election, going back to a period when calm, rational (albeit cynical) people were mapping out the plan for the GOP in great detail, particularly when it came to message discipline.
There were two obvious objectives, providing cover for voter suppression and motivating the base. In terms of the latter I suspect that the key to successful execution was to get supporters to think of rigging as a surmountable challenge. If you keep sending money, voting the straight party ticket and, most important of all, showing up for every election, the cause of right will prevail.
Comments like the following, clearly overshoot that happy medium.
From Esme Cribb writing for TPM:
Donald Trump suggested in a speech at a Colorado rally on Saturday that election officials will throw away mail-in ballots if they don't "like" them.
"I have real problems with ballots being sent," Trump said, according to a transcript by NBC's Ali Vitali and Emily Gold. "People say, oh, here's a ballot, bing. Here's another ballot, throw it away. Oh, here's one I like, we'll keep that one."
Trump claimed that there are "a lot of people" watching election officials.
"We're trying to have some pretty good supervision out there," he said. "We have a lot of people watching you people that collect the ballots."
I think this pushes us into bifurcation range, where Trump supporters are either too discouraged to vote or are willing to go to extreme measures to make sure that their vote counts.
From New York Magazine:
A Des Moines woman has been arrested and charged with voter fraud after she allegedly voted for Donald Trump a second time out of concern that her first vote for Trump would be counted for Hillary Clinton instead. The Des Moines Register reports that 55-year-old Terry Lynn Rote was charged with first-degree election misconduct on Thursday after authorities discovered that she had cast early-voting ballots at two different locations in Iowa.
“I don’t know what came over me,” Rote told the Washington Post sometime after being released on $5,000 bond Friday. The registered Republican also told Iowa Public Radio that she was afraid that her first Trump vote was going to be somehow counted for Clinton. “I wasn’t planning on doing it twice, it was spur of the moment,” she insisted, also repeating Trump’s oft-made claim that “the polls are rigged.”