- President Donald Trump is creating a narrative in case the November election results in a “red mirage” scenario — whre Trump appears to win on election night, but loses after postal votes are counted.
- Data firm Hawkfish, which works with Democrats, warned of the scenario, with its CEO saying what could happen is “It looked like Donald Trump was in the lead and he fundamentally was not when every ballot gets counted.”
- Trump has been seeking to discredit mail-in voting for months, and suggested in response to Hawkfish’s claims that this could be a “Rigged Election?”
- Trump allies are warning that widespread postal voting could harm Republicans, and even that it’s part of a plot to reject the results of the election.
- Experts say that there’s no evidence the system is unsafe, and point to the fact that the practice has been widely used by both Democrats and Republicans with no issues in previous elections.
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Predictions of a “red mirage” election day — in which President Donald Trump initially appears to win but later loses due to mail-in votes — burst to prominence this week in the US.
But for Trump and his allies, they have also proved an opportunity to pre-emptively frame such a scenario as a betrayal, in which dark forces conspire to deprive him of victory.
The scenario was laid out by Josh Mendelsohn, the CEO of data firm Hawkfish, which is funded by Michael Bloomberg and works with Democrats.
In an interview with Axios, he described the “very real possibility” that data on election night from in-person voting will indicate a strong lead for Trump.
He said that mail-in ballots, which take longer to count, could after several days leave Joe Biden as the victor — a scenario dubbed the “red mirage.”
For those around Trump, the scenario reinvigorated a campaign of baseless against mail-in voting, which the president has sought to portray as illegitimate.
Past Trump comments on mailed votes include calling mail-in ballots “a formula for RIGGING an Election” in July. He later briefly suggested postponing the November election, claiming that large numbers of mailed votes would make it “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.”
Voting by mail has been used in both Republican and Democrat states in the US for decades and is already the primary voting system in some states. Experts say cases of fraud are extremely rare, and any scheme would be very likely to be detected.
After the Hawkfish prediction began to circulate, Trump’s warnings took a darker turn.
In posts shared by Trump, Raheem Kassam, the editor-in-chief of the right-wing National Pulse, took the “red mirage” preidction as proof of a prior claim that that Democrats and the media are “conspiring to reject the election results.”
He also shared video of Nigel Farage, the UK politician who campaigned for Brexit, claimed he had seen mail-in voting abused in his home country.
Farage said “The worst scenario of all is on the morning of the fourth of November, Trump looks like the winner, and then over the course of the next ten days, all these mail-in votes are counted and the result gets reversed.”
Both Farage and Kassam implied that the mail-in votes which could reverse an apparent Trump win would be illegitimate, though did not explain why that was so.
Other Trump allies have similarly struggled to justify Trump’s assertions about the alleged problems.
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, was pushed for proof on CNN in August that there was proof of voter fraud, and he responded that “There’s no evidence that there’s not either.”
As well as asserting that mail-in votes are vulnerable to manipulation, Trump has also appeared to encourage actions that would weaken the system.
In August, Trump said that he planned to block funding to the cash-strapped US Postal Service (USPS), for the explicit reason that it would degrade its ability to handle mail-in votes. He later walked back the idea.
And on Wednesday in an interview with North Carolina’s WECT-TV channel, Trump encouraged people to vote twice — which is illegal — to test the system.
Trump’s warnings are extending an argument long made by parts of the Republican Party, usually at a more local level.
David Ralston, the Republican speaker of the House in Georgia said in April that an all-mail election would be “extremely devastating to Republicans,” and Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican in Kentucky, described universal mail voting would be “the end of our republic as we know it.”
Although hostility to mail-in voting from Trump and the wider GOP is nothing new, the “red mirage” scenario has energized their attacks, which are primed to prepare his supporters to be betrayed rather than accept any coming loss.