Donald Trump has invented a lot of reasons for his failures in the first two presidential debates.
For the first, it was that his microphone was defective. And days after the second contest, he claimed that Hillary Clinton kept entering his personal space—despite the fact that he spent a majority of it awkwardly trailing her.
On Saturday, days before the final debate between the two candidates, he came up with a new reason as to why she might be winning: Clinton is taking performance-enhancing drugs.
"At the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped at the beginning, but at the end she was all 'take me down.' She could barely reach her car," Trump said at an event in New Hampshire, erroneously linking the debate to a previous health episode Clinton had on September 11. "I think we should take a drug test. Anyway, I'm willing to do it."
"We're like athletes, but athletes, they make them take a drug test. We should take a drug test," he said. "I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate because I don't know what's going on with her."
Trump’s latest explanation of his uneven debate performances comes as the number of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct is close to double digits, his poll numbers continue to plummet and as his campaign chairman in the critical battleground state of Ohio declared he was cutting ties with the Ohio Republican Party chairman.
All this with 24 days to go before the election and four before the next presidential debate in Las Vegas.
So a distraction was needed and any would do.
Over the course of his last three speeches, Trump has burrowed down a conspiracy rabbit hole, linking an avalanche of sexual assault allegations against him to a wide-spread operation by the media (pesky Carlos Slim!) and the Clinton campaign to derail his presidential bid.
Not only has he attempted to undermine the electoral process by saying that the election is “rigged,”—an effort to explain away a now likely loss on November 8—Trump has interwoven ideas stretching from all sides of the fever swamps of the Internet into his recent stump speeches.
The notion that Clinton is juicing up like an athlete before the debates came from an outlet on the fringe of the Internet that has become an increasingly important resource for the Republican nominee.
Less than a week ago, Roger Stone (Trump’s consigliere to the conspiracist underground), went on InfoWars to claim that Clinton was "jacked up on something, I assume some kind of methamphetamine."
"I don't think she has the stamina for a campaign," Stone continued. "They managed to prop her up for one debate, she can't even keep her full schedule because her health is so bad." Clinton had pneumonia in the middle of September which sidelined her for a few days.
Trump is now so deeply-entrenched in his own man-against-the-world narrative that it’s trickling down to every surrogate around him. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the New Hampshire crowd this morning that the election was rigged, which would imply that the Republican governors in various states overseeing the electoral process on a local level would somehow be collectively trying to stack the chips against Trump.
As a sign of the two forces against which Trump is currently waging a war, both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Clinton’s campaign dismissed these assertions as nonsense.
“Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” a spokesperson for Ryan (who still endorses Trump) said.
“Participation in the system—and particularly voting—should be encouraged, not dismissed or undermined because a candidate is afraid he’s going to lose,” said Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook in a statement. “This election will have record turnout, because voters see through Donald Trump’s shameful attempts to undermine an election weeks before it happens."
His campaign’s ability to compete in one of the most important swing states also looked imperiled on Saturday, after the chairman of his Ohio campaign, Bob Paduchik, announced they were cutting ties with the Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges.
"It's no great secret that Chairman Borges was never fully on board, but his actions over the past week demonstrate that his loyalties to Governor John Kasich's failed presidential campaign eclipse his responsibility as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party," Paduchik wrote, according to the letter. "The chairman is also apparently driven by an insatiable need for publicity."
After the release of a 2005 video last week where Trump could be heard making vile comments about women and bragging about his ability to sexually assault them with no ramifications, Borges told party officials they would not be punished for pulling their endorsements from the Republican nominee.
Borges strongly pushed back against Paduchik in a letter to committee members Saturday afternoon, saying the party will continue to work to support the Republican nominee.
“Let me be clear, I am never going to allow the bruised ego of a staffer to get in the way of my duty as the Ohio Republican Party Chairman,” he said.
Mike Hartley, an Ohio-based Republican strategist and president of Swing State Strategies, said the Trump campaign seemed to be laying the groundwork to blame the Ohio GOP for a future loss there.
"Amazing that we Ohio Republicans will win up and down the ticket, yet they will blame the ORP. Sole responsibility for winning or losing goes to the nominee,” he said. “ As Paul Brown once said "Poise Wins Championships". Too bad that is sorely lacking from the nominee and his campaign."
According to a Real Clear Politics average of recent polling, Clinton has a razor thin lead on Trump in the Buckeye State, which was once his strongest chance to secure one of the many much needed swing states necessary for victory.
Still, at a rally in Maine Saturday afternoon, Trump confidently told a crowd they were going to win and seemed to stick to his script.
Trump ominously warned, “Either we win the election or we lose the country. This is the last time. This is it."
As he wrapped up the speech, Trump promised the crowd the moon and the stars.
“You have 24 days, to make every dream you’ve ever dreamed, for your country, for your children for your family come true,” he said. “On November 8th, the arrogance of Washington, DC will come face to face with the righteous verdict of the American voter...which is you.”