Ms. Matthews noted that his rhetoric does little more than consolidate voters who are likely to return to his corner. “He has no interest at all in expanding his base or even withdrawing from those who have left,” she said.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said that past presidents typically tried to wage cultural battles “to give people this amorphous kind of center to continue living in.” However, Mr. Trump is different from any of his predecessors.
“Donald Trump doesn’t give you that choice – you’re either with him or against him,”
In Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump also faces a centrist opponent who is not easily branded a radical liberal, but who is seen as a tasty alternative to some older voters and Republicans, which Hillary Clinton was not. For example, Mr. Biden said that he did not support the defusing of the police and that he carefully distinguished between the demolition of monuments to the country’s founding fathers and those reminiscent of the Confederate leaders.
That didn’t stop the Trump campaign from claiming that Mr. Biden is on the side of violent looters in the black and white world she plans to present to voters in November. “The first instinct of Joe Biden and his party is to agree with the agitators that there is something fundamentally wrong with America and that there has always been something,” said Murtaugh.
The question for Mr. Trump and his political advisors is whether it will work to brand Mr. Biden as a puppet for right-wing extremists. In a statement released on Saturday in response to Mr. Trump’s speech, Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said: “Joe Biden represents the opposite values - you bring to win this struggle for the soul of our nation rebuilding the American people and the middle class stronger than ever and taking everyone with them. “
Trump’s speech on Friday night also showed the president’s concern about his standing with evangelical voters and conservatives who were crucial to his victory in 2016. The late Supreme Judge Antonin Scalia, a conservative favorite, was on the list of great Americans, whom he said he wanted to establish in honor of a statute.