Speaking to comedian Trevor Noah, the Democratic candidate for the US presidency said he fears the Republican would try to steal the election if he loses in November.
The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of US democracy, so much so that when Al Gore lost a controversial presidential contest against George W Bush in 2000, it was the former vice-president himself who certified the result despite objections from Democratic party colleagues.
But today a fear unprecedented in modern US history is beginning to reveal itself explicitly - that the incumbent US president, Donald Trump, will not go without a fight should he lose his 2020 re-election bid.
The concerns come from none other than Democratic candidate Joe Biden himself, who in an interview with comedian Trevor Noah said he feared Trump would try to “steal” the election.
Biden told the Daily Show host that such an eventuality was his single biggest concern regarding the 2020 race.
Asked what would happen if Trump refused to relinquish power, Biden responded: “I am absolutely convinced they (the military) will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”
Just a day earlier, a top military official, General Mark Milley, apologised for attending a Trump photo opportunity outside a church, saying that his involvement "created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics".
Biden’s fears were echoed by another top Democrat, New Jersey governor Cory Booker, who said that any attempt by Trump to hold on to power, should he lose, would be checked by others in power.
For their part, the Trump side has completely dismissed the idea that Trump would not relinquish power should he lose.
“This is just another brainless conspiracy theory from Joe Biden as he continues to try to undermine confidence in our elections,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communication director said.
Fears among Trump’s critics stem from statements he has made both recently and during the 2016 presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Before his victory in the 2016 presidential election, Trump suggested the election was “absolutely rigged”, while his top advisor Rudy Guiliani said the Democrats were cheating.
Trump has also raised the issue of staying beyond his two-term limit but whether that is a serious statement of intent or just rhetoric to fire up his base is uncertain.
“At the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT).” Trump wrote on his Twitter account in June 2019.
Trump has again raised the spectre of possible Democrat manipulation of the November 2020 vote through the use of fraudulent ballots, despite analysts pointing out such votes have extremely low statistical rates of fraud.
Any suggestion that Biden is likely to beat Trump should come with the caveat that the result is far from certain. As Trump showed in 2016, pollsters and analysts who predicted he would likely lose, can get it wrong.
Nevertheless that victory was narrow with Trump losing the popular vote by almost three million ballots, and only securing the victory thanks to the electoral college system and less than a hundred thousand votes spread almost perfectly across key battleground states.
With polls showing Biden in the lead in some battlegrounds, such as Florida, the former vice-president during the Obama administration seems well placed to give Trump a strong challenge in the very least.