Influential Republicans have pushed back against US President Donald Trump’s suggestion it might be necessary to delay November’s election.
Republican members of Congress moved to reassure voters that the election would proceed on the constitutionally mandated day, as it has for more than two centuries, after Mr Trump floated the idea.
The president does not have the power to move the election date on his own and would need congressional approval to do so.
Iowa senator Chuck Grassley said: “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.”
Representative Liz Cheney, who leads the House Republican Conference, said: “The resistance to this idea among Republicans is overwhelming.”
It has been a rare rebuke for Mr Trump from his fellow Republicans but one that might not last.
There has been little conservative opposition to the president’s broader push to raise questions about the legitimacy of the November 3 election, including his suggestion that a delayed result because of postal voting would be a sign of fraud.
The government announced on Thursday that the US economy plunged by a record-shattering 32.9% annual rate last quarter as the pandemic forces a wave of layoffs that shows no sign of abating.
Mississippi governor Tate Reeves, in an interview with The Associated Press, said he feared “a new wave of economic downturn” as he grapples with pressure to institute a second stay-at-home order as coronavirus infections in his state surge. The first-term Republican governor said he would do “everything possible” to avoid another shutdown but could not rule out the possibility.
Mr Reeves encouraged Mr Trump to embrace a re-election message focused on his ability to revive the nation’s economy, a familiar suggestion from frustrated Republican officials.
Mr Reeves said he opposes any plan to change the election date. He said: “I don’t personally think a delay in the election at this point in time is necessary.”
But he said he remained “100% committed to doing everything possible” to help Mr Trump beat Democratic rival Joe Biden in November.
“I don’t believe that the president is losing significant support from Republicans,” Mr Reeves said.
Mr Trump cannot change the election date without the approval of Congress, and policymakers in both parties made clear they would oppose such a move. Mr Trump’s ultimate goal, however, may have less to do with the election date than undermining the results of the election if he loses.
Current polls suggest that Mr Trump is trailing Mr Biden by a significant margin in several swing states.
The Republican president did not deny that he was trying to cast doubt about the election results when asked directly during Thursday’s press briefing. Instead, he repeatedly cited the prospect of voter fraud, which is virtually non-existent in US politics.
“I don’t want to delay. I want to have the election. But I also don’t want to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing, and the election doesn’t mean anything,” Mr Trump said, warning of the possibility of “a crooked election”.