WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama all but invited Donald Trump on Tuesday to jump into a fight with him, baiting the Republican nominee as he faces an overwhelming disadvantage in the polls just weeks before Election Day.
Obama, whose approval ratings rank among the highest of any U.S. politician, mocked Trump's complaints that the vote-counting system may be "rigged" while the race is still afoot.
"If you start whining before the game's even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job," Obama said, his voice cracking with amusement, during a news conference at the White House Rose Garden.
"I'd invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes."
Though taking on the popular sitting president would be an unconventional strategy at this point, Trump has proven repeatedly that he is susceptible to provocation, and Obama seemed to be aiming straight for that vulnerability.
Obama vowed early on to be more "subdued" talking about the presidential race than he has been on the campaign trail while stumping for Hillary Clinton. As it turned out, he cast more shade in that dignified setting than at almost any turn in recent weeks.
He mocked Trump for his "flattery" of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He faux-marveled at how Republicans have abandoned their skepticism of Putin to support Trump.
Then he turned to Trump's complaints of a "rigged system," suggesting that Trump is discrediting the election process rather than trying to sell his ideas to voters.
"It happens to be based on no facts," he said. Serious analysts, he said, "will tell you that instances of significant voter fraud are not to be found."
Trump's protests fail to show "the kind of leadership and toughness" voters want in a president, Obama said.