President Donald Trump's pattern is now familiar: he makes a stunning assertion, on Twitter or impromptu. The head scratching begins.
Was he serious? Was he trying to distract from other negative news?
Allies are left to shrug their shoulders and brush off his remarks. Some regularly claim to have not read or heard them.
A public numbness sets in, to the point that even Mr Trump's most ardent political opponents have difficulty summoning outrage.
But this week the president offered a statement that stood out, even among many that have put Mr Trump's branding iron on the office.
His standing with the public flagging amid myriad crises, Mr Trump floated on Twitter the prospect of delaying the November 3 election - a suggestion more in line with autocrats who try to quash the public's ability to vote than with the head of the world's leading democracy.
It was a tweet that mattered, and couldn't be ignored, even by many Republicans who have long given him a pass.
It mattered because it amounted to a stunning attack on the underpinnings of American democracy - on the notion that a nation that has held free and fair elections in the midst of wars, pandemics and the Great Depression might not be capable of doing so when it's Donald Trump's political career that is on the line.
President Trump does not appear to have the same attachment to the tenets of American democracy as his predecessors. He has repeatedly put stress on the nation's institutions, prompting an obstruction of justice investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and impeachment by the House of Representatives for seeking a foreign government's help in digging up dirt on Joe Biden, now his Democratic opponent in the November election.
In 2020, he has aggressively turned his attention to the electoral process that will determine his political fate. He's repeatedly raised unfounded accusations of fraud, particularly related to the uptick in mail-in voting that is expected due to safety fears during the COVID-19 pandemic. He's also refused to say whether he would accept the outcome of the election, saying it's too soon to give an ironclad guarantee.
Mr Trump made similar statements as a candidate in 2016, and has also flirted with election fraud conspiracy theories as a private citizen. The fear among Democrats and many elections experts in 2020, however, has been that he would wield the power of his office to affect the outcome of the election or Americans' ability to vote - particularly if he thought he might be heading for defeat.
In reality, Mr Trump doesn't have the ability to delay the election on his own. Changing the date would require approval from Congress - something Republican lawmakers made clear they would not support.
Events on the other side of the world offered a cautionary tale. The day after Mr Trump floated a delay in the US election, Hong Kong's government announced that it would postpone September elections for a year, blaming the coronavirus pandemic.
But the move was seen as a way to sideline pro-democracy politicians. The White House condemned the move.