Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination who have since become staunch Trump supporters, both dismissed the idea that the date for the election could change. Senator Lindsey Graham, Mr. Trump’s foremost public defender in the Senate, said there would be a secure vote in November. And officials in key swing states showed little interest in engaging on the topic.
“We’re going to have an election, it’s going to be legitimate, it’s going to be credible, it’s going to be the same as it’s always been,” Mr. Rubio told reporters at the Capitol in Washington.
Mr. Cruz agreed. “I think election fraud is a serious problem,” he said. “But, no, we should not delay the election.”
People close to Mr. Trump said that the president has at times discussed with associates whether the election can be delayed, and has been told definitively that only an amendment to the Constitution could change the date. But his tweet was discomfiting to most of his aides, who tried to clean up his statement later by contending that he had been referring to the possibility that the outcome won’t be known until weeks after the election.
This is not the first time that Mr. Trump has raised the idea of thwarting rules or laws that he finds objectionable, and he often fails to follow through. He has repeatedly hurled threats, whether it is defunding universities or blocking federal aid to states, the substance of which he has no intent, or capacity, to fulfill.
The president, who did not serve in government before being elected to the highest office in the country, has never fully absorbed what powers he does and does not have, or how to wield his authority. What Mr. Trump has always been mindful of, dating to his time as a real estate developer, is the danger of being labeled a failure.
So in response to his weakened standing in the presidential race, Mr. Trump has been reaching for arguments to explain his difficulties this year, repeatedly noting how the virus undermined the booming economy for which he claims credit.