How Trump’s Convention Has Become a Crucial Play for the Suburbs

If the softer focus on Mr. Trump at the convention does not square with the ads that his campaign is producing, it was also incongruous with the messaging at most other points during the convention. Mr. Trump has given top billing to some of the most provocative defenders of his style of politics. The result has been a program that can seem discordant — with one segment featuring the activist Charlie Kirk declaring Mr. Trump “the bodyguard of Western civilization” who is protecting Americans from “bitter, deceitful, vengeful activists,” and in the next, a video with two millennial Latina women praising Mr. Trump for the federal loan that kept their small business afloat during the pandemic lockdown.

Interviews with several voters in swing states on Wednesday found skepticism toward the convention’s portrayal of Mr. Trump.

“I’m certainly aware he’s trying to win back people he’s lost,” said Maureen Thomas, 61, a resident of suburban Detroit who voted for the Republican nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney, and now supports Mr. Biden. Ms. Thomas, a retired lawyer, found the president’s presiding over a naturalization ceremony on Tuesday night, after years of hostility to immigrants, “fake, false, a show.”

Jeffrey Timlin, 26, a registered Republican in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia, said that the convention’s portrait of Mr. Trump “just doesn’t feel authentic.” Mr. Timlin, an engineer, plans to vote for Mr. Biden, but said he is jaded about both candidates and their parties.

“I think that the idea of changing and putting Biden in would take at least a little away from this big public smoke screen that has been the Trump presidency,” he said.

The image of Mr. Trump at the convention is a far cry from the president who has spent his first term focused on strengthening his relationship with his conservative base of support. For Americans who hoped Mr. Trump would become the leader he vowed to be in his victory speech in 2016 — “I will be a president for all Americans,” he declared — his record and priorities in office rarely reflect that pledge.

“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.

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