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McCain on Trump: 'Duty to concede' after presidential loss

After walking away from his support for Donald Trump two weeks ago, U.S. Sen. John McCain took another step Thursday, declaring in the wake of Trump's debate comment that he wouldn't necessarily accept the results of the election that a presidential nominee who loses has a "duty to concede."

McCain lost the 2008 presidential contest to Barack Obama.

"I didn't like the outcome of the 2008 election. But I had a duty to concede, and I did so without reluctance," he said.

"All Arizonans and all Americans should be confident in the integrity of our elections," McCain said. "Free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power are the pride of our country, and the envy of much of the world because they are the means to protecting our most cherished values, the right to liberty and equal justice."

Wednesday night, Trump said in a debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton that "I'll keep you in suspense" when asked if he would accept the results if he lost the election.

Trailing in both national polls and in battleground states necessary for him to win the Electoral College, Trump has stepped up his claims that the U.S. election system is "rigged." Even in reliably Republican Arizona, several polls have shown Trump trailing Clinton.

Thursday, Trump said he would "totally accept" the result, "if I win."

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who has been a steady opponent of Trump's candidacy, said Trump's "saying that he might not accept election results is beyond the pale."

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McCain, who said "I will not vote for Donald Trump," abandoning his previous support for the Republican nominee after tapes were released of Trump bragging about his ability to "grab (women) by the pussy," blasted Trump without naming him. McCain also mentioned the likelihood, announced by U.S. intelligence officials, that Russian operatives were behind the hacks of email accounts of some Democrats. Trump has said he doesn't believe that has happened.

"America has a reputation and an example to uphold in the eyes of the world that is at the core of our ability to influence world events," McCain said. "When a foreign adversary, like Vladimir Putin, tries to interfere with our election he's trying to undermine our standing and influence."

"I didn't like the outcome of the 2008 election. But I had a duty to concede, and I did so without reluctance. A concession isn't just an exercise in graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader's first responsibility," he said.

"There have been irregularities in our elections, sometimes even fraud, but never to an extent that it affected the outcome," McCain said.

"I don't know who's going to win the presidential election. I do know that in every previous election, the loser congratulates the winner and calls them, 'my president.' That's not just the Republican way or the Democratic way. It's the American way."

"This election must not be any different," he said.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

McCain in 2014.