Hillary Clinton continued to play the consummate politician while Donald Trump struggled to condemn alleged Russian interference in the election.

Clinton took aim at the reality television past of her opponent twice in the debate.
Clinton took aim at the reality television past of her opponent twice in the debate. (TRT World and Agencies)

The third and final US presidential debate between Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and her Republican rival Donald Trump ended with a clear call to US voters from Chris Wallace, the debate moderator:

"Now, the decision is up to you."

But Trump has made it clear that he doesn't think that's the case.

In fact, when asked whether he would accept the election outcome, Trump – who has spent the last few weeks claiming the election might be rigged in favour of his opponent – gave a noncommittal response:

"I will tell you at the time … I'll keep you in suspense."

Clinton called the real estate magnate-turned-reality star's response "horrifying," but in many ways it was very much in keeping with an election that has become a national nightmare for many in the United States.

It may not be right, but in this instance, a possible unwillingness to accept the peaceful transition of power is not surprising for an election that has been plagued by name calling, numerous accusations of sexual abuse, the rehashing of the sex scandals of former President Bill Clinton and even a threat by Trump to jail Clinton.

Scorched earth

If Trump doesn't accept the results of the November 8 polls, the already divisive rhetoric around the election could stretch out for several days, weeks, or even months.

Both candidates still suffer from historically low favourability ratings – well below the 50 percent, as of October 17.

Some election watchers say Trump – who currently has a favourability rating of 31 percent – is engaging in a two-pronged scorched earth tactic.

One-half of that approach is to claim the system is rigged against him and that: "Millions of people are registered to vote that shouldn't be."

The other is to depress Democratic turnout by bringing up the faults of Clinton and her husband, himself a two-term president rocked by allegations of corruption and sexual abuse.

A refusal to accept one of the most basic precepts of US politics – the result of a democratic election – would fit right alongside his approach to campaigning so far.

Clinton, on the other hand, took Wednesday's debate in Las Vegas as a chance to once again play the seasoned, professional politician.

In two of the biggest blows of the night, the former first lady, New York senator, and secretary of state twice took aim at Trump's forays into reality television:

"On the day I was in the Situation Room monitoring the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, he was hosting the Celebrity Apprentice."

She returned to the same theme when responding to his declaration that he may not accept the election outcome:

"There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV programme three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged."


In another attack, Clinton said her opponent would be a "puppet" of Russian President Vladimir Putin if elected into office.

Clinton then took aim at Trump's refusal to accept findings by 17 of the top civilian and military intelligence agencies that the highest levels of the Kremlin provided material to Wikileaks, a whistleblower site, in hopes of affecting the outcome of the election.

"He'd rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us," Clinton said of her opponent, who has repeatedly denied links with the Russian president.

It was another clear jab calling into question her rival's loyalties and his potential unwillingness to accept US political norms.

Trump may have fashioned himself as the unorthodox candidate, one who comes from outside the confines of the DC establishment. But the ambiguity over whether he will accept defeat could hit the psyche of the American people, who value the ideal of democracy, and may torpedo his chances of becoming the most powerful man in the world.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies