US President Donald Trump has walked back the idea of a "delay" to November's presidential election just hours after suggesting it.
Mr Trump was heavily slated by both Republicans and Democrats after raising the possibility of delaying the poll as he made unsubstantiated allegations that increased postal voting will result in fraud.
The president told reporters: "Do I want to see a date change? No. But I don't want to see a crooked election."
It marked a shift in the language of a president lagging in the polls and grappling with deepening economic and public health crises.
His earlier suggestion of a delay drew immediate push-back from Democrats and Republicans alike in a nation that has long held itself up as a beacon to the world for its history of peaceful transfer of power.
Shifting election day is virtually impossible and the very idea represented another bracing attempt by Mr Trump to undermine confidence in the American political system.
The date of the presidential election - the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year - is enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change.
Mr Trump repeatedly tests the Republican Party's limits on issues including race, trade and immigration. Now he has struck a boundary.
GOP officials around the country quickly pushed back against Mr Trump's suggestion that it might be necessary to delay the election because of the unfounded threat of voter fraud.
They 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."
Liz Cheney, Representative for Wyoming and daughter of former US vice-president Dick Cheney, 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 Mr Trump in Congress, also distanced themselves from the notion of a delayed election.
It was a rare rebuke for Mr Trump from his fellow Republicans but one that might not last.
There was little conservative opposition to Mr Trump's broader push to raise questions about the legitimacy of the November 3 election, including his suggestion later that a delayed result because of mail-in ballots would be a sign of fraud.
The simple reality remains that Republicans up and down the ballot this autumn need Mr Trump's fervent base on their side.
The dynamic has forced Trump-backed politicians to walk a delicate balance as they condemn the president's most erratic behaviour and ideas while trying not to upset his die-hard loyalists.
At the same time, many Republican leaders are struggling under the weight of health, economic and social crises that the Trump administration has so far failed to contain.
The government announced Thursday that the US economy plunged by a record-shattering 32.9pc annual rate last quarter as the pandemic forces a wave of layoffs that shows no sign of abating.