President Trump used his biggest television audience of the campaign to try to undermine confidence in the integrity of the election as no modern president has ever done, using the debate to urge his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully” and continuing to suggest, despite no evidence of widespread problems, that the vote would be “fraudulent.”
The barrage of accusations from a president who is behind in the polls — and who refused, when asked by the moderator, Chris Wallace, to say whether he would pledge not to declare victory until the election was independently certified or urge his supporters to stay calm after the election — alarmed scholars who study election monitoring around the world, who said the comments laid the groundwork for political violence.
“This is the type of comment that international observers typically would latch onto as an attempt at foul play,” said Judith Kelley, the Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, who has studied international election monitoring. “As far as the rest of the world, this is the kind of comment we would expect in a more authoritarian environment. Certainly not in a country that purports to be a beacon of democracy.”
Authorized election observers are typically trained to follow guidelines to ensure that they do not intimidate voters, she noted.
“In an environment where we want both to de-densify the polling station environment to keep it as safe as possible from a public health standpoint, and an environment where there is ongoing civil unrest that has turned violent at times, Trump’s urging is even more concerning,’’ she wrote in an email.
Thomas Carothers, the senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that “it is unprecedented in modern U.S. history having a sitting U.S. president attack the integrity of the election before an election — there is no parallel.”
Mr. Carothers said that the president’s call for his supporters to go into the polls to watch raised concerns about possible voter intimidation, noting that he had just spoken to a friend who had gone to vote early in Virginia only to be met by a small crowd of Trump supporters.
Mr. Trump’s remarks, he said, threaten to make his supporters believe that if he loses, it is only because the election was not fair.
“He’s preparing the ground for violent conflict over the election, and preparing the ground for a lack of legitimacy for the process,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s remarks also concerned his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., who said Wednesday that Mr. Trump was trying to suggest to supporters that if he lost, the results would not be legitimate. “I don’t know any president has ever done that before,” he said.
Rosa Brooks, a professor at Georgetown Law who organized a series of exercises in June aimed at identifying potential risks to the election and transition, said that election monitors and political violence experts would view the president’s language as “a major early indicator of potential problems.”
“His rhetoric is dangerously and profoundly anti-democratic,” she wrote in an email. “It’s the kind of language you might expect from a dictator, not from the supposed leader of the free world. His job should be to unite Americans and foster stability. Instead, Trump’s comments increase the risk of political violence — which is shockingly irresponsible from the president of the United States.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates said on Wednesday that it would make changes to the format of this year’s remaining match-ups in the wake of Tuesday night’s melee in Cleveland, where frequent interruptions from President Trump led to a chaotic and often incoherent event, though it did not elaborate on what those changes would entail.
“Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” the commission, a bipartisan nonprofit that has organized the debates since 1987, said in a statement. “The C.P.D. will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly.”
Members of the commission praised Tuesday’s moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, “for the professionalism and skill” he brought to the occasion. The commission said it “intends to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates.”
Although the commission did not go into detail about the changes it was considering, there were widespread calls on Wednesday for moderators to be granted the power to cut off a candidate’s microphone.
Mr. Wallace did not have that ability on Tuesday night, when Mr. Trump repeatedly flouted the agreed-upon ground rules that each candidate would have two minutes to answer a moderator’s query before his opponent could respond.
President Trump refused to categorically denounce white supremacists on Tuesday night, diverting a question about right-wing extremist violence in Charlottesville, Va., and Portland, Ore., into an attack on left-wing protesters.
“Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” Chris Wallace, the moderator, asked the president.
“Sure. I’m willing to do that,” said Mr. Trump, but quickly added, “Almost everything I see is from the left wing. Not from the right wing.”
When Mr. Wallace pressed on, the president asked, “What do you want to call them?”
“White supremacists and right-wing militias,” the moderator replied, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. mentioned the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Mr. Trump said. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.”
When Mr. Biden pointed out that Mr. Trump’s own F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, had said that antifa was an idea, not an organization, the president replied, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.” (Mr. Wray also said this month that “racially motivated violent extremism,” mostly from white supremacists, had made up a majority of domestic terrorism threats.)
The president’s words prompted celebration by members of the Proud Boys. Within minutes, they were posting in private social media channels, calling the president’s comments “historic.” In one channel dedicated to the Proud Boys on Telegram, a private messaging app, group members called the president’s comment a tacit endorsement of their violent tactics.
In another message, a member commented that the group was already seeing a spike in “new recruits.”
Twitter and Facebook both suspended the Proud Boys from their platforms in 2018. Since then, the group has continued to expand its numbers on other social media platforms, and has become more visible at protests.
On Wednesday, Mr. Biden sent a different message to the Proud Boys: “Cease and desist.”
“My message to the Proud Boys and every other white supremacist group is cease and desist,” Mr. Biden said in Alliance, Ohio, where he was on a campaign swing. “That’s not who we are. This is not who we are as Americans.”
ALLIANCE, Ohio — A day after a staggeringly contentious first debate, Joseph R. Biden Jr. sought again to put President Trump on the defensive on Wednesday by courting some of the voters who propelled him to the White House in 2016.
In his most vigorous day of campaigning in months, Mr. Biden embarked on a train tour that was to bring him to Pittsburgh as well as a host of smaller towns in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania where in 2016 Mr. Trump won over working-class white voters who had traditionally voted for Democrats.
Mr. Biden began the tour with a speech at Cleveland’s Amtrak station, where he was introduced by a teacher whose husband worked at the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that closed last year.
Mr. Biden said the debate on Tuesday night was supposed to be “about you and all the people I grew up with in Scranton,” his Pennsylvania hometown.
“Does your president understand at all what you’re going through, what so many other people are going through?” Mr. Biden asked. “The question is: Does he see you where you are and where you want to be? Does he care? Has he tried to walk in your shoes, to understand what’s going on in your life? Or does he just ignore you and all the folks all over America who are in a similar situation?”
After his speech, Mr. Biden boarded a chartered Amtrak train and headed to his next stop, the town of Alliance in northeast Ohio, where he kept up his criticism of Mr. Trump.
“What I saw last night was all about him,” he said. “He didn’t speak to you or your concerns or the American people even once.”
Taking questions from reporters, Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump “did what I expected him to do last night.” He called the debate “a wake-up call for all Americans,” and said the way Mr. Trump conducted himself was “a national embarrassment.”
“For 90 minutes, he tried everything to distract — everything possible,” Mr. Biden said. “It just didn’t work.”
Mr. Biden has been open in his ambition to win over voters who supported President Barack Obama and himself before flipping to back Mr. Trump, honing a populist economic message that casts the contest as a choice between Scranton and Park Avenue.
There are limits to that goal: According to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll of Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump has double-digit leads over Mr. Biden among white voters without four-year college degrees and among rural voters.
But the same poll showed why the Biden team sees an opportunity: Mr. Trump, who won Pennsylvania by less than a percentage point in 2016, is underperforming with those voters now, and Mr. Biden has a chance to cut further into his margins.
How much time he intends to devote to that effort remains an open question: Amid the pandemic, Mr. Biden has been deeply cautious about campaign travel, causing concern among Democrats in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. But in recent weeks he has stepped up his schedule.
A longer-shot victory in Ohio, which Mr. Trump carried by eight points in 2016, is the stuff of Democratic dreams, while the surprise defeat Mr. Trump dealt Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania is a source of nightmares for many Democrats who are still wary of believing polls showing Mr. Biden with a stable lead there.
Katie Glueck reported from Alliance, and Thomas Kaplan from Washington.
President Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn white supremacy and right-wing extremist groups during the first presidential debate drew muted concern from some Republicans on Capitol Hill, as the highest-ranking Republican in the House sought to defend his remarks.
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone Black Republican in the Senate, said he believed Mr. Trump had misspoken and that the president should clarify his remarks.
“I think he misspoke, I think he should correct it,” Mr. Scott told reporters. “If he doesn’t correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak.”
Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota sought to equate right-wing extremists with groups on the left, even though the F.B.I. and the Homeland Security Department have singled out white supremacists as the primary domestic terrorism threat.
Mr. Trump “should have made it very clear that there’s no room for people on the far left or the far more far right when it comes to antifa or these white supremacist groups,” Mr. Rounds said. “I was hoping for more clarity.”
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, defended Mr. Trump’s answer, arguing that the president “has been very clear that he’s against anybody for committing violence in the streets” and pointing to a recent pledge by the president to classify both the Ku Klux Klan and antifa as terrorist organizations.
Pressed by reporters, Mr. McCarthy chafed at the suggestion that Mr. Trump should have explicitly denounced specific right-wing extremist groups.
“How many times does he have to say it, if the question is, ‘Would you denounce it’ and the answer is yes?” Mr. McCarthy said. “He did that.”
When Chris Wallace, the debate moderator, asked Mr. Trump Tuesday whether he would condemn white supremacy and distance himself from extremist groups, Mr. Trump replied, “Sure.” But when Mr. Biden mentioned the Proud Boys, a far-right group, Mr. Trump refused to condemn them and instead suggested they “stand back and stand by.”
Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, lamented on Wednesday that “we didn’t get great clarity from the debate last night about the differences in vision of the future of this country, and I did think that that was unfortunate.”
He would not address Mr. Trump’s remarks specifically, but made a point of personally condemning white supremacy. “I think that all of these groups are equal, and I condemn them on the strongest terms and we need to remain one nation under God.”
On the other side of the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a sharp rebuke of the comments on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” calling the moment the capstone of “really a sad night for our country” and accusing Mr. Trump of “intimidating” voters.
Ms. Pelosi also expressed concern that Mr. Trump would “cause chaos” by questioning the election results, after the president said during the debate Tuesday night that he was “counting” on a conservative Supreme Court to determine the victor.
“He wants to cause chaos, take it to the courts; when he takes it to the courts, prolong the process,” she said. “What is this?”
More Than a Vote, the collective of athletes headlined by the basketball superstar LeBron James, will announce Wednesday that its initiative to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts had amassed 10,000 volunteers since it began.
The effort, which is called “We Got Next” and is a collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, will be highlighted during the first game of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, the team featuring Mr. James. During the game, first-time poll workers will be among the virtual fans, seated alongside basketball legends including Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Julius Erving.
In a release provided to The New York Times, More Than a Vote and the Legal Defense Fund said the second phase of their push would be more targeted, aimed at 11 cities “where significant poll worker shortages remain,” the release said.
Those cities include Black voter hubs in the South, like Birmingham, Jackson, Houston, San Antonio and Montgomery, as well as cities with significant Black populations in critical battleground states, like Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
Elections officials throughout the country have cited a shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites as a major problem for November’s election, which has been upended by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The shortage has been particularly acute in Black communities, which have historically experienced longer wait times and have had fewer polling locations than many white communities.
In an earlier interview, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said increasing the number of poll workers was critical to fighting attempts at voter suppression. Ms. Ifill also said it was important to create trust among Black voters, a population that has been targeted by suppression efforts in the past and has traditionally relied on in-person voting even more so than other demographic groups.
“We need more poll workers, and we need younger poll workers who can be resilient and work during early voting as well,” Ms. Ifill said.
Struggling to hold on to a state that was a key to his 2016 victory, President Trump will travel to Wisconsin this weekend for two large outdoor campaign rallies, even as the White House coronavirus task force warned that the state was in the “red zone” for new cases.
“To the maximal degree possible, increase social distancing mitigation measures until cases decline,” the task force urged Wisconsin officials in a recent report.
Mr. Trump, who trails Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the polls in a state he narrowly won in 2016, will speak at airports in La Crosse on Saturday and Green Bay on Sunday, his campaign website says.
The president’s rallies have often prompted criticism from public health authorities about the lack of social distancing and the absence of masks. One held on Sept. 17 in Mosinee, Wis., drew an estimated 5,000 people.
Since that event, the White House coronavirus task force warned officials in Wisconsin that the virus was surging in the state and advised them to become more vigilant.
“Wisconsin has continued to see a rapid worsening of the epidemic in the last week with the governor declaring a health emergency,” the task force said in a Sept. 27 report obtained by The Times. The state’s rate of new cases in the past week is the country’s third highest.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier reported that Mr. Trump was going ahead with the rallies despite the warnings.
In addition to designating the whole state a “red zone,” the task force warned that the Green Bay and La Crosse-Onalaska metro areas were red zones themselves.
Mr. Trump’s defiant approach to campaigning amid the pandemic has stood in stark contrast to the guarded path taken by Mr. Biden, who has avoided large in-person events and whom Mr. Trump has criticized as being cloistered.
“We have tremendous crowds as you see and, literally, on 24 hours notice, and Joe does the circles and has three people someplace,” Mr. Trump said at Tuesday’s debate.
Mr. Biden responded that Mr. Trump didn’t care about the health of his supporters.
“He’s been totally irresponsible the way in which he has handled the social distancing and people wearing masks, basically encouraging them not to,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Trump also mocked Mr. Biden over how often he wears a mask.
“Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” Mr. Trump said.
At a rally for Mr. Trump in Ohio last week, the state’s Republican lieutenant governor was booed by the crowd when he tried to promote wearing masks.
The first presidential debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. unraveled into an ugly melee on Tuesday, as Mr. Trump hectored and interrupted Mr. Biden nearly every time he spoke and the former vice president denounced the president as a “clown” and told him to “shut up.”
In a chaotic, 90-minute back-and-forth, the two major party nominees expressed a level of acrid contempt for each other unheard-of in modern American politics.
Mr. Trump, trailing in the polls and urgently hoping to revive his campaign, was plainly attempting to be the aggressor. But he interjected so insistently that Mr. Biden could scarcely answer the questions posed to him, forcing the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, to repeatedly urge the president to let his opponent speak.
“Will you shut up, man?” Mr. Biden demanded of Mr. Trump at one point in obvious exasperation. “This is so unpresidential.”
Yet Mr. Biden also lobbed a series of bitingly personal attacks of his own.
“You’re the worst president America has ever had,” he said to Mr. Trump.
The president’s bulldozer-style tactics represented a significant risk for an incumbent who’s trailing Mr. Biden because voters, including some who supported him in 2016, are so fatigued by his near-daily attacks and outbursts. Yet the former vice president veered between trying to ignore Mr. Trump by speaking directly into the camera to the voters, and giving in to temptation by hurling insults at the president. Mr. Biden called Mr. Trump a liar and a racist.
Mr. Trump peppered his remarks with misleading claims and outright lies, predicting that a coronavirus vaccine was imminent when his own chief health advisers say otherwise, claiming that his rollback of fuel-efficiency standards would not increase pollution and insisting that a political adviser, Kellyanne Conway, had not described riots as useful to Mr. Trump’s campaign, even though she did so on television.
And even as he went on the offensive against Mr. Biden on matters of law and order, Mr. Trump declined to condemn white supremacy and right-wing extremist groups when prompted by Mr. Wallace and Mr. Biden. When Mr. Wallace asked him whether he would be willing to do so, Mr. Trump replied, “Sure,” and asked the two men to name a group they would like him to denounce.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, participated in her second day of private meetings with senators on Wednesday, sitting down with Republicans eager to approve her confirmation before the general election on Nov. 3.
Judge Barrett received unanimous praise from the handful of Republican senators she met with on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. The effusive support for Judge Barrett, who was confirmed to the appeals court in Chicago in 2017, underscored the likelihood that Senate Republicans would succeed in completing the confirmation process in about a month.
Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, was the first senator to meet with Judge Barrett Wednesday, joking that after being quizzed in college, he was “looking forward to the opportunity to return the fire — to turn the tables, if you will — to ask a question or two of a former law professor.”
He added, “I’m sure we’ll have a very interesting and informative opportunity to speak with each other.”
Mr. Romney, like several senators on Tuesday, declined to answer a question about whether Judge Barrett should recuse herself from any election-related cases that appear before the Supreme Court if she is confirmed.
Judge Barrett is also meeting with Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, Todd Young and Mike Braun of Indiana, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi.
Seven female Republican senators also held a news conference to rally support for Judge Barrett, arguing she should be celebrated for being a woman of faith with seven children and saying they were defending her from what they viewed as unfair personal attacks.
“Folks, this is what a mom can do,” Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa said.
Senator Martha McSally of Arizona condemned what she said was “the hypocrisy we’re seeing from some of the media and the left attacking her for being a mom.”
Asked for evidence of the unfair attacks on Judge Barrett, Republican staff members referenced a 2017 comment from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, that the “dogma lives loudly within” her, an apparent reference to her Catholicism. They did not produce evidence of attacks on her motherhood.
Noticeably absent from the news conference were Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who have urged the Senate to wait until after the presidential election to vote on a new Supreme Court justice.
A few Democratic senators, including Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey, have indicated that they will speak with Judge Barrett before hearings begin next month, even as several of their colleagues have said they plan to boycott the usual courtesy meeting. They are fiercely opposed to filling the seat when voting is underway in many states, accusing Republicans who refused to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016 of rank hypocrisy.
“The best thing we can do is basically expose this process for what it is,” Ms. Klobuchar said on Tuesday.
With little power to block the nomination, Democrats have sought to frame the confirmation battle as a referendum on health care, given that the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that could overturn the Affordable Care Act in the days after the election.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, on Tuesday successfully set up votes on legislation that would prevent the Justice Department from moving to strike down the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that Senate Republicans would have to vote on health care legislation before the election.
The unedifying spectacle of Tuesday night’s presidential debate produced some shock, some sadness and some weariness among both America’s allies and its rivals on Wednesday.
As President Trump bellowed, blustered and shouted down both the moderator, Chris Wallace, and his opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and as Mr. Biden responded by calling Mr. Trump a “clown,” many wondered if the chaos and tenor of the event said something more fundamental about the state of American democracy.
“Of course, the ultimate arbiter will be the American voter,” said Ulrich Speck, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “But there is a consensus in Europe that this is getting out of hand, and this debate is an indicator of the bad shape of the American democracy.’’
There was always a sense among allies that in America, despite political disagreement, “there is one republic, and conflict will be solved by debate and compromise,” and “that power was married to some kind of morality,” Mr. Speck said.
But that view is being questioned now, he said: “The debate was really no debate at all, but two people pursuing their strategies.”
John Sawers, a former British diplomat and head of a risk analysis firm, said simply: “My own response is that it makes me despondent about America. The country we have looked to for leadership has descended into an ugly brawl.”
President Trump on Wednesday morning continued his angry and misleading tirade from Tuesday night’s debate, tweeting false and exaggerated accusations about Joseph R. Biden Jr.
In one tweet, Mr. Trump claimed that Mr. Biden refused to use the term “law and order” during the debate even though the Democratic nominee used the term several times.
Mr. Trump insisted in another tweet that Mr. Biden “wants to Pack the Supreme Court,” even though the former vice president repeatedly refused to say whether he supports that idea; that Mr. Biden “wants no fracking,” overstating his rival’s plan for limits on the practice; and that the “Second Amendment is DEAD” if Mr. Biden is elected, a clear exaggeration of his position.
The tone of the president’s tweets mirrored the aggressive approach he took during the debate, interrupting and heckling Mr. Biden throughout the proceedings.
“Nobody wants Sleepy Joe as a leader, including the Radical Left (which he lost last night!),” Mr. Trump tweeted, attempting to drive a wedge between Mr. Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination to the former vice president. “He disrespected Bernie, effectively calling him a loser!”