The remarks underscore real anxiety within factions of the country that Trump — who repeatedly complained about a “rigged” election in 2016 — may decide to contest the legitimacy of the election in 2020 if he is defeated or otherwise argue for an extended time in office.

“Everything that he says is a trial balloon — even his, quote, jokes are trial balloons,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor who studies authoritarian rulers. “But if you look at what he jokes about, it’s always things like this — it’s the extension of his rights, it’s the infringement of liberties. And authoritarians are continually testing the boundaries to see what they can get away with, and everything he does is a challenge to Democrats to mount some response against him.”…

Asked about Trump’s suggestion that he receive two more years in office, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) chuckled and said, “I think y’all people are crazy.”

“When it comes to Trump, people need to dial it back a little bit,” said Graham, who added that when he once jokingly suggested Trump receive a third term, “people went nuts.”