LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- He'd be crazy not to bring up this investigative series, especially since (a) most of the media had to be dragged into covering the story, and tonight is Trump's last big chance to make a direct and unfiltered pitch to tens of millions of voters, and (b) two of the "stars" of Project Veritas' show have been fired or resigned. There's blood in the water. Scott Foval got the axe on Monday night, then Bob Creamer fell on his sword the following evening. With both villains felled by their own conduct, Trump has a chance to take this story mainstream, assuming moderator Chris Wallace doesn't beat him to the punch by challenging Clinton about the outrageous actions of operatives who are directly tied to her campaign. Will he? The tea leaves say 'yes:'
And Trump is now citing James O'Keefe because #2016— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) October 18, 2016
That tweet encapsulates the prevailing MSM perspective that O'Keefe's reporting is a weird sideshow that should be ignored by the professionals. But what those videos -- particularly the first one -- depict is pretty explosive stuff, and the subsequent firing and resignation have only fueled the story. Because Trump has been pre-excusing his increasingly likely November loss with cries of "rigging" (side note: read this piece on that over-broad charge), he'll probably be tempted to trumpet the second clip, which is being hailed by some as 'proof' of widespread voter fraud by Democrats, who also 'confess' to fixing elections for 50 years. But I'm afraid there's a bit less to that video than meets the eye. Having watched it twice, it's clear that the featured shadowy characters have no compunction whatsoever about spitballing ideas on how to commit voter fraud on a mass scale, but there's no smoking gun that they've done so -- or are actively planning to do so. Foval speaks 'in theory' about one "if"-filled scheme, which undercover Project Veritas investigators seem to be at least co-hatching, while Creamer worries that 'our lawyers' may raise reg flags about it (Foval later says Creamer would have to be out of the loop -- wink, wink -- on any follow-through). DREAMer activist Cesar Vargas vaguely mentions the possibility of maybe entertaining a fraud push in 2018 at the end of the video, but even that's hedged. Plus, within its limited context, it's not entirely clear to me that Foval's 'half century' remark referred to bussing in illegal voters, as opposed to astroturf protesters (though he later discusses how one might transport illegal voters to another state without getting caught).
None of this is to say that this installment reflects well on any of its targets. It most certainly does not. At the very least, they all appear totally comfortable with the idea of fraud, and Foval's fertile imagination dreams up a number of methods to subvert election laws while making it difficult for authorities to prove wrongdoing. For his part, Vargas mentions that perhaps this proposed form of cheating would be more attractive if Trump wins, suggesting that perhaps it wouldn't feel as urgent if Hillary Clinton is elected, because voter ID laws would be "loosened" and "we [would] have immigration reform." It's all ugly and cynical, and it would be illegal if there were any proof that they'd actually done these things. Maybe such evidence is lurking in a yet-unreleased video. My point is that the extraordinary claim that massive voter fraud is rigging an entire nationwide election requires extraordinary, concrete evidence to prove. This video showcases the very bad intentions and lack of scruples of some hardcore Clinton-aligned operators, but falls far short of "affirming" Trump's grossly exaggerated implication. To my eyes and ears, the more airtight evidence is contained in the original video, which clearly demonstrates DNC- and Clinton-contracted operatives deliberately trying to spark violent confrontations at Trump rallies, hoping that the media will pass the resulting fireworks off as genuine grassroots opposition to Trump while blaming the 'hateful' climate entirely on the GOP candidate -- which is precisely what happened. It's all so...deplorable.
Tonight's third and last presidential debate begins at 9pm ET, and will last approximately 90 minutes. We'll have full team coverage right here at Townhall. It's getting to be kitchen sink time for Donald Trump -- but even if it weren't, pressuring Clinton to defend the seedy underbelly of her party and campaign would be worthwhile. I'll be shocked if it doesn't come up. And if Hillary pushes back with predictable pearl-clutching about Trump's rhetoric eroding public faith in our electoral system (which his ham-fisted, destructive theorizing actually does), he has an opportunity to turn the tables and highlight her selective outrage:
Their agitators shut down a political rally by stoking fears of violence. Then they'll moan about Trump undermining faith in the system https://t.co/8G3QODIX1E— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 18, 2016
Buckle up for this evening's final round. Trump needs to reset the race. Launching more harebrained complaints about "rigging" would be counter-productive, especially as he risks deflating on the central attraction of his campaign. When you're losing the "change election" question to Hillary Clinton, you're really blowing it. Focus.