Dallas Morning News: Cruz, Cornyn and Abbott reject Trump idea to delay the election, as Democrats see brewing autocracy
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump floated the idea of delaying the presidential election on Thursday morning, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and what he views as the high risk of fraud as mail-in balloting becomes more widespread.
Democrats and some fellow Republicans condemned the suggestion as the act of a would-be autocrat, and even allies such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz rebuffed the idea.
“Obviously he doesn’t have the power to do that,” Cornyn said.
Adversaries noted that Trump is trailing Democrat Joe Biden by double digits nationally. And they pointed out the apparent contradiction between his insistence that it’s safe enough to reopen public schools at full capacity, yet too risky to let voters decide whether to keep him in the White House for another four years.
Trump floated the suggestion just 20 minutes after a devastating economic report showed GDP collapsed at a record-smashing annual rate of 32.9% in the second quarter of 2020. And 52.4 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the crisis.
“Trump’s threat is nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract from today’s devastating economic numbers that make it clear his failed response to the coronavirus has tanked the U.S. economy and caused tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs,” said Democratic National Committee senior advisor Lily Adams.
Presidents do not have the authority to reschedule a presidential election, even in an emergency. The Constitution explicitly gives Congress alone that power.
Cornyn, facing Democrat M.J. Hegar in his bid for a fourth term, downplayed the president’s trial balloon as mischievousness “so all you guys in the press, your heads will explode.”
Cruz, another close Trump ally, rejected the idea.
“Election fraud is a serious problem. We need to fight it and stop it. But no, the election should not be delayed,” he said.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s spokesman, John Wittman, sidestepped whether Trump’s idea is a good one but said: “Texas has adopted procedures and guidelines to ensure safe and fair elections, including extending the early in-person voting period, and the elections in Texas will occur on November 3rd.”
The Dallas Morning News queried all 22 Texas Republicans in the U.S. House, as well. Most did not respond. Those who did mostly sidestepped the merits of a delay.
“I plan on voting on November 3rd,” said Rep. Mike Conaway of Midland, who joined Trump in his hometown a day earlier.
Rep. Roger Williams of Austin, whose Democratic challenger Julie Oliver asserted that “this is an attempt to delegitimize the results of an election Trump knows he will lose,” said only that “the election will take place on November 3rd as directed by Congress.”
Rep. Van Taylor of Plano does not support a delay, an aide said. Fellow freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Houston echoed that, tweeting, “It’s not even a question. No delays.”
Democrats were far more keen to call attention to the president’s idea than their opponents.
“Flailing to cling to power while Americans suffer profoundly from his many failures, President Trump continues marching toward tyranny,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. “I strongly oppose this autocratic push intended to discredit the election, if he cannot delay it. Though obviously unconstitutional, this move poses serious danger from a lawless, desperate President, who respects none of our democracy’s boundaries.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, an Austin Republican and former homeland security chairman whose jurisdiction included election security, agreed that it would take an act of Congress to reschedule the election, and said: “Texas and other states can safely and fairly hold the election in November.”
Trump stirred the uproar with a tweet: “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???”
Aides and cabinet members were treating it as as serious idea, even if Cornyn and others tried to portray it as a joke of some sort.
At a Senate Foreign Relations hearing Thursday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pressed on Trump’s proposal by Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democrats’ last vice presidential nominee, asserted that “the Department of Justice and others will make that legal determination.”
But as Kaine pointed out, Congress has set the date of presidential elections since 1845, and some top Senate Republicans echoed the point only Congress has the authority.
“No, we’re not going to delay the election,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso or Wyoming said on Fox Business.
Until now, Trump has rejected the prospect of delaying the November election amid the pandemic.
Aides even heaped scorn on Biden when the former vice president warned at an April 23 fundraiser that Trump “is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.”
“Those are the incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality. President Trump has been clear that the election will happen on November 3rd,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh responded at the time, as the Republican National Committee called Biden “off his rocker.”
On Thursday, Ari Fleischer, a White House press secretary under George W. Bush, chastised Trump for even floating the idea.
“Our democracy is based on elections in which everyone knows the rules and they apply to all,” he tweeted. “Mr. President - please don’t even pretend to mess with this. It’s a harmful idea.”
Anti-Trump Republicans quickly rejected the president’s trial balloon, including George Conaway, husband of White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conaway.
The Lincoln Project, a group of veteran GOP operatives dedicated to taking down Trump, posted a chart of GDP to explain his desire to delay the election.
Many states have expanded early in-person voting and mail-in voting to reduce crowding at polling sites during the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to rage and has now cost 150,000 lives in the United States.
But mail-in voting is not “universal” and there is no concerted push to eliminate in-person balloting.
Nor is there evidence that voter fraud grows with mail-in voting, let alone enough to sway an election run under the Electoral College system. It’s winner-take-all by state, and given the nation’s polarized political climate, most states end up with lopsided outcomes where fraud would have to be on a massive scale to account for the margin of victory.
“The president is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting,” Hogan Gidley, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, said in a statement. “They are using coronavirus as their means to try to institute universal mail-in voting, which means sending every registered voter a ballot whether they asked for one or not.”
That’s a problem, he added, because “voter rolls are notoriously full of bad addresses for people who have moved, are non-citizens, or are even deceased. Universal mail-in voting invites chaos and severe delays in results, as proven by the New York Congressional primary where we still don’t know who won after more than a month.”
María Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, a group that works to expand Latino participation in elections, called Trump a “nascent authoritarian throwing temper tantrums” and trying to suppress voter turnout.
The president, she said, “is attempting to sow mistrust and fear about an election that he appears poised to lose.”