“That is the first and most important test of leadership that he failed immediately and has failed every day since,” said Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive and Republican who ran against Mr. Trump in 2016. She is now supporting Mr. Biden, and encouraging other Republicans to do so.
But Ms. Fiorina cautioned that Democrats should not assume that swing voters will tune out Mr. Trump’s appeals just because they have a problem with the messenger.
“Most Americans don’t believe that Trump is ‘the guardian of Western civilization’ for heaven’s sake,” Ms. Fiorina said. “But I believe that Biden and the Democratic Party, in order to win, need to keep their eyes on where the majority of Americans are.”
And Republicans do see openings where they believe that Democrats are vulnerable. For instance, if eruptions of violence in cities like Kenosha, Wis., continue or worsen, Republicans believe there are suburban voters who will blame Democrats, even those who say they are with the majority of Americans who support the recent demonstrations against racial injustice.
What many Republicans say they find frustrating is the way Mr. Trump’s provocations and outbursts tend to obscure the disagreement they have been trying to raise about the Democratic Party’s leadership and policies, like the push from some on the party’s left to “defund” police departments. Despite the soft-sell approach that some speakers have taken during the first two nights of the convention, it is the loudest voices — the ones that mimic Mr. Trump’s attacks — that often break through most memorably.
The Trump campaign is trying to give the milder moments a longer shelf life, quickly cutting them up into ads and sending them out across the Trump campaign’s vast digital messaging operation. By Wednesday morning, the campaign had clipped scenes from the pardon of Joe Ponder, a convicted bank robber, and Melania Trump’s Tuesday night speech, turning them into Facebook ads. Every night, the president’s Twitter account, often the space for his most caustic whims, has been dedicated to churning out individual clips from the convention while it is being broadcast.
The Biden campaign, for its part, has been spending heavily to try to tamp down any potential convention bump for Mr. Trump. While the Trump campaign is dark on broadcast, the Biden campaign will spend about $20 million on television ads in battleground states.