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Here's the *real* reason Donald Trump is attacking mail-in ballots

(CNN) On Tuesday morning, Donald Trump tweeted this:

"There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!"

That follows hard on a Memorial Day weekend spent attacking plans by states to increase their vote-by-mail efforts as a way to help mitigate a possible second surge of the coronavirus in the fall.

"The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots," Trump tweeted Sunday. "It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and 'force' people to sign. Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!"

Now, before we go any further, it's worth noting here that the sort of widespread election fraud that Trump is talking about is incredibly rare. In fact, there's just no significant evidence of intentional voter fraud on anything near the scale Trump and his allies allege. Never has been.

Study after study that make this fact plain.

In one, Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt tracked US elections from 2000 to 2014 in search of voter fraud, or, as he put it, a "specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls."

How many examples did he find? Exactly 31 -- out of more than 1 billion instances. 31! (That's an infinitesimally small number.) That's not to say that each of those 31 instances of attempted voter fraud isn't worth an investigation. We don't want any voter fraud. But it is to say that 31 instances out of more than 1 billion is nothing anywhere close to widespread voter fraud.

The Levitt study is far from the only one to draw such a conclusion. A 5-year study on voter fraud commissioned by George W. Bush -- a Republican -- found that same conclusion as Levitt. Wrote The New York Times at the time: "The Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections."

In the 2016 election, in which more than 135 million votes were cast, there were a total of four documented cases of voter fraud, according to The Washington Post's Philip Bump.

Then there's this: The most recent example of actual voter fraud -- in 2018 -- came at the hands of a Republican operative in a Republican primary running an absentee ballot scheme.

As Fox News' Chris Wallace put it Sunday: "I've done some deep dive into it, there really is no record of massive fraud or even serious fraud from mail-in voting."

So then, why is Trump so fixated on a problem that doesn't exist? The key lies in a single word he keeps using when talking about mail-in balloting: "Rigged."

Trump has never, ever, not ever admitted he has lost anything. In the face of multiple bankruptcies because of poor decisions he made with his businesses, he insisted he was flush with cash and was outsmarting everyone. When a business deal went south and Trump clearly got the worst of it, he would declare victory to anyone who asked -- and to lots of people who didn't. When he lost the Iowa caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) in 2016, he tweeted this: "Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa, he stole it. That is why all of the polls were so wrong and why he got far more votes than anticipated. Bad!"

Notice the pattern? This is a man who cannot accept losing in any way, shape or form. And when faced with defeat or setback, he insists that the rules were broken, that something nefarious happened -- although he never says exactly what.

Which brings us back to Trump's attacks on mail-in balloting in the November election. What he's doing is simple: Laying the groundwork to never admit defeat if he winds up losing to former Vice President Joe Biden in the fall.

If Trump does lose, he will insist that it was not the result of voters choosing Biden over him but rather a function of those cheating Democrats and their "rigged" mail-in ballot scheme -- because Donald Trump doesn't lose. And the only way he could lose is if he was cheated in some way.

Because Trump simply cannot be gracious in defeat -- or even accept defeat -- there's a real possibility he never actually concedes the race. Remember that Trump claimed, with zero proof, that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in 2016 solely as a way to justify the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. And that was an election he won!

All because Trump isn't capable of admitting he might not always be the best at everything always.