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After Trump's most substantive debate, the focus was only on one statement

Donald Trump looked more prepared for policy questions and attacks Wednesday night than he did in the first two presidential debates.

But after the final debate in Las Vegas, commentators and even Trump's fellow Republicans focused mostly on one moment. Trump repeated his assertion that he may not accept the outcome of the presidential election.

"What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense," Trump said when asked if he would accept the election results.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump sips water during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (not pictured) at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016.
Rick Wilking | Reuters
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump sips water during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (not pictured) at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016.

Even after the most substantive debate of the general election, GOP lawmakers, commentators and cable news shows focused mostly on Trump's statement about the election results. Public officials have alleged election tampering before, but not weeks ahead of the results are known, as Trump repeatedly has this week.

After the debate, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt told MSNBC that Trump won almost all of the debate but "hit himself in the head and knocked himself out" with the comment.

Former and current Republican officials also seized on the comment. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was among the Republican presidential hopefuls during the primaries, called Trump's comments about a "rigged" election "a great disservice" to the party and the United States.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona tweeted that Trump's inability to say he would accept the results is "beyond the pale." Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele called his comments "dumb."

Many lawmakers and commentators have challenged Trump's comments about election rigging because state and local officials — many of whom are Republicans — control voting.

Trump will accept the results "absent irregularities and widespread fraud," his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC after the debate.

Trump started out the debate by making a strong pitch to conservatives during a question about the Supreme Court, immediately saying he would appoint judges who would protect the right to bear arms. He seemed more prepared for Hillary Clinton's attacks and more frequently pressed her for failing to accomplish policy goals during her time as a public servant.

But most of the post-debate talk focused on Trump's comment about accepting the election.

Clinton did have some strong moments. She said Trump was "talking down our democracy," hitting him for claiming a conspiracy was against him several times during the campaign.