US President Trump's suggestions comes as he trails in the polls, nationally and across battleground states, and some surveys even suggest traditionally Republican-leaning states could be in play.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks about American energy production during a visit to the Double Eagle Energy Oil Rig in Midland, Texas. July 29, 2020.
President Donald Trump delivers remarks about American energy production during a visit to the Double Eagle Energy Oil Rig in Midland, Texas. July 29, 2020. (Tony Gutierrez / AP)

US President Donald Trump repeatedly tests the Republican Party's limits on issues including race, trade and immigration. With his tweet on delaying US elections, he struck a boundary.

Multiple conservative US lawmakers on Thursday pushed back against fellow Republican Trump's suggestion to postpone the November 3 presidential election — which he cannot do without congressional approval — saying the contest would be held as planned even as they backed his concerns about mail-in voting

GOP officials from New Hampshire to Mississippi to Iowa reassured voters that the election would proceed on the constitutionally mandated day as it has for more than two centuries.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was especially blunt: “All I can say is, it doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says. We still are a country based on the rule of law, and we want to follow the law.”

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu vowed his state would hold its November elections as scheduled: “End of story.” 

Representative Liz Cheney, who leads the House Republican Conference, said, "The resistance to this idea among Republicans is overwhelming.”

The top Republicans in the House and Senate, who have spent the past four years championing Trump in Congress, also distanced themselves from the notion of a delayed election.

It was a rare rebuke for Trump from his fellow Republicans, but one that might not last. 

There was little conservative opposition to Trump's broader push to raise questions about the legitimacy of the November 3 election, including his suggestion later Thursday that a delayed result because of mail-in ballots would be a sign of fraud.

Trump's first public demand for delay

The dates of presidential elections — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year — are enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change. The Constitution makes no provisions for a delay to the January 20, 2021 presidential inauguration.

Still, the mere suggestion of the delay was extraordinary in a nation that has held itself up as a beacon to the world for its history of the peaceful transfer of power.

Trump tweeted on Thursday: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

First responders: Democrats

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) said, "There is no way" Trump can delay the November presidential election as members of Congress reacted to the tweet.

"A sitting president is peddling lies and suggesting delaying the election to keep himself in power," Democratic Representative Dan Kildee wrote on Twitter.

"Don't let it happen. Every American — Republican, Independent and Democrat — should be speaking out against this President's lawlessness and complete disregard of the Constitution."

Putting out fire with fire?

Trump's tweet came on a day of bad economic news and amid a dark political patch for his reelection effort. Wall Street further fell after the tweet.

The government reported on Thursday that the US economy shrank at a dizzying 32.9 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, by far the worst quarterly plunge ever, as the coronavirus outbreak shut down businesses, threw tens of millions out of work and sent unemployment surging to 14.7 percent.

Trump trails in the polls, nationally and across battleground states, and some surveys even suggest traditionally Republican-leaning states could be in play. 

While Trump has come back before after trailing consistently in the polls throughout 2016, it’s raised the possibility that he could face a landslide loss if he doesn’t turn things around.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting, even in states with all-mail votes.

Trump's 2020 campaign tried damage control after the tweet.

Trump was "just raising a question", CNN reported, citing a spokesman for Trump's re-election campaign.

"The President is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting," Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement, according to the television network.

READ MORE: Trump lawyers argue Democrats just want to overturn election

Mail-in ballots not new

Five states already rely exclusively on mail-in ballots, and they say they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure that a hostile foreign actor doesn’t disrupt the vote. 

Election security experts say that all forms of voter fraud are rare, including absentee balloting.

Just days ago, Attorney General William Barr testified to Congress that he didn’t have evidence that foreign countries could use fraudulent mail-in ballots to change the outcome of an election in the US. Barr said it was “common sense” to think they would try.

Trump has increasingly sought to cast doubt on November's election and the expected surge in mail-in and absentee voting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

And Trump has called remote voting options the “biggest risk” to his re-election. His campaign and the Republican Party have sued to combat the practice, which was once a significant advantage for the GOP.

Trump himself voted by mail in the last Florida Republican primary.

And his own 2016 presidential election victory came at the pinnacle of a decadeslong trend away from in-person voting on Election Day.

Trump refused in an interview just weeks ago with Fox News to commit to accept the results of the upcoming White House election, recalling a similar threat he made weeks before the 2016 vote.

“I have to see. Look ... I have to see,” Trump told moderator Chris Wallace during a wide-ranging interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no,’ and I didn’t last time, either.”

Concerns over Covid-19

Voters and public health officials have expressed concerns about the potential dangers for spreading the virus during in-person voting, and states have reported difficulty filling poll worker positions given the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically recommends states “encourage mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction," given the coronavirus threat.

Last month, Trump told supporters in Arizona that, “This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country."

There appears to be next-to-no appetite in the Capitol for a change to the November 3 election. Democrats have pushed to include billions of dollars in the next coronavirus relief bill to fund election security and accessibility improvements for this year's vote, but Trump and Republicans have so far resisted those efforts. 

With aid expiring, the White House offered a short-term extension Thursday of a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Democrats rejected it, saying President Donald Trump’s team failed to grasp the severity of the crisis.

Democratic leaders panned the idea in late-night talks at the Capitol, opting to keep the pressure on for a more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments, help for the poor and funding for schools and colleges to address the pandemic. Without action, the benefit runs out Friday.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies