Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton smiles as she walks between moderator Chris Wallace and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after their final debate Wednesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Trump said he may refuse to accept the outcome of the election if he loses. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
LAS VEGAS, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- In the final debate with Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night, Donald Trump refused to say whether he would accept the outcome of the presidential election: "I'll keep you in suspense."
Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News asked Trump about his repeated accusations that the media and the wealthy elite are working with Clinton to steal the election. Asked if he would honor the American democratic tradition of the unquestioned, peaceful transfer of power, Trump said he would keep voters "in suspense."
"I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at it now. What I've seen is so bad," Trump said, listing off the groups he believes are working against him.
Wallace returned to the central question, whether Trump would honor the outcome of the election, even if he loses.
"What I'm saying is I will tell you at the time," Trump said. "I'll keep you in suspense."
Clinton shot back: "That's horrifying."
"That's not the way our democracy works," she said. "For 240 years, we've had free and fair elections and we've accepted the outcome of them. He is denigrating, he is talking down our democracy."
Trump trails in a number of national polls, insisting that the election -- now just 20 days away -- is "rigged." The UPI/CVoter tracking poll shows him down nearly 5 percentage points to Clinton nationally and behind in most battleground states.
In an early reminder Wednesday of the palpable personal hostility that has defined the campaign, neither candidate made an effort to walk across stage and shake hands after being introduced, the standard protocol in political debates. At the close of the evening, both stood pat at their lecterns, appearing to wait for the other to make the first move. Eventually Clinton did, walking over to Wallace to shake his hand, while ignoring Trump as he moved to do the same.
Roughly the first half of Wednesday's debate was the most substantive of any of the three meetings -- absent the sideshow of name-calling or personal attacks involving Trump's video describing grabbing women's genitalia or Bill Clinton's sordid marital infidelities.
It returned to that eventually.
In the debate's closing moments, Trump responded to a Clinton barb about avoiding paying taxes with the interjection, "what a nasty woman."
On the Supreme Court and abortion
Wallace opened the 90-minute-plus debate, held at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, with a 15-minute segment on the Supreme Court and the candidates clashed over their views of the Second Amendment and abortion.
Trump repeated his pledge to appoint anti-abortion judges, saying his election would lead to overturning Roe v. Wade and sending the issue to individual states. He also cast Clinton's position refusing to outlaw late-term abortions in dire terms.
"If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now you can say that's okay and Hillary can say that's okay, but that's not okay with me." Trump said.
Clinton responded, disparaging Trump for his choice of words.
"Using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate. You should meet with some of the women I've met with," she said.
Clinton went on to defend her vote on late-term abortions because the legislation being considered by the Senate at the time did not include exceptions for the life or health of the mother.
From there, the candidates sparred on immigration.
Wallace pointed out Clinton's paid private speech to Brazilian bankers, in which she lauded "free trade, open borders."
Clinton defended the statement, saying the quote was taken out of context, that she was talking about being able to build a hemispheric energy grid, not blanket immigration policy. She also criticized Trump for his immigration plan, referencing his campaign kickoff, where he called Mexicans "rapists" and "murderers."
She labeled Trump's plans for a border wall a fantasy.
"When it comes to the wall Donald talked about, he went to Mexico, had a meeting with the Mexican president, didn't even raise it. He choked, then he got in a Twitter war when the Mexican president said 'we're not paying for that wall.'"
Trump responded, saying the wall would stem illegal immigration and the cross-border drug trade.
"We have no country if we have no borders. We have to have strong borders. We have to keep drugs out of our country."
He later referred to undocumented immigrants with criminal records as "bad hombres."
On Russia and Vladimir Putin
The candidates also sparred on Russia, when Clinton accused Trump of currying favor with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said he has no personal relationship with Putin, only a shared disrespect for Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.
"I don't know Putin. He said nice things about me," Trump said.
"If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good," he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. "He has no respect for her."
Clinton said Trump has benefited from Russian hacking of Democratic groups in an attempt to meddle with the election's outcome. Trump responded, saying the U.S. intelligence community could not be sure the hacks were Russia's doing, though he did condemn "anybody" who is behind them.
"He'd rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals that are sworn to protect us," Clinton said.