DELAWARE, Ohio - Republican Donald Trump said he had a "major announcement": "I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election.” He paused.
“If I win.”
Later in the speech, the GOP nominee softened his tone: "Of course, I will accept a clear election result, but I will also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result."
Trump made headlines at Wednesday's night debate by suggesting he might not accept the results of the election. His supporters in one of Ohio’s reddest counties say that’s smart.
“I am a sports fanatic, and I don’t give up until the whistle blows,” said Kaylor Inskeep, of Baltimore, Ohio. He was running on five hours of sleep between watching the debate and driving to Delaware County to see Trump’s first post-debate appearance.
During that debate, Trump said of accepting the results of the presidential election: "I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense."
If Trump’s admission was cringe-worthy for his fellow Republicans, and alarming for adherents to political history, it didn’t faze the crowd gathered at the Delaware County Fairgrounds Thursday morning. Trump needs these voters, and their neighbors, to pull out a win in swing-state Ohio over Democrat Hillary Clinton. She is leading in national polls, while Ohio remains a tight race.
Delaware County is among the wealthiest and fastest growing in Ohio. The county is also the most educated, with the highest percentage of college degree holders in the state, and fewer of the working-class voters who make up much of Trump's base. Gov. John Kasich beat Trump in the county by more than 20 percentage points in the GOP primary, leaving the Clinton campaign hopeful it can peel off some voters turned off by Trump's divisive rhetoric.
But a Democrat won't win Delaware County, and Trump supporters at the rally Thursday were still very much behind their pick. They said they shared Trump's concerns about election rigging, even if instances of voter fraud are extremely rare.
“I want him to go to the bottom of it. If there’s cheating, we want to know about it,” said Julie Blackledge, of Marion.
“I don’t trust the voting system anymore,” said Dan Grumbling, of Powell, who was wearing a “Veterans for Trump” pin.
Trump's fellow Republicans disagree with his talk of "rigged elections." Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, repeatedly has assured Buckeyes that voter fraud is rare. On Wednesday, Kasich told “CBS Morning News” Trump’s suggestion the elections were rigged was “like saying we never landed on the moon.”
But Kasich's fans weren't crowding the Delaware Trump rally. Even though the governor won this county in the GOP primary, many of the Republicans gathered Wednesday disapprove of Kasich's refusal to endorse Trump. The governor signed a pledge to support the GOP nominee, they say.
If Trump made headlines for his stance on the election results, Clinton’s worst moments of the debate came when she dodged questions, such as a query about favorable treatment for Clinton Foundation donors. And Trump supporters noticed.
“Every question that Hillary was asked, she danced around every one of them, especially pay to play,” Grumbling said. “She never answered. She was just telling everybody how great the Clinton Foundation was.”
Paul Winters, a student at Ohio State University’s Marion campus, said Trump would likely support the election’s results but needed to prove he would not stop fighting.
“I thought that was Trump,” said Winters, of Delaware. “It really showed that he’s for the people, and if he needs to fight, he’s going to fight.