On Monday, President Trump picked a fight with Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. On Tuesday, it was Lesley Stahl, the “60 Minutes” correspondent, who was caught in the president’s cross hairs, after he cut short an interview in frustration and then mocked her on Twitter for not wearing a mask at the White House after the interview.
Feuding with individuals who are not actually Mr. Trump’s opponent, in a race that is two weeks away, has struck many in his orbit as a waste of limited time when he should be singularly focused on making the race a referendum on Joseph R. Biden Jr., the person he is actually running against.
But his advisers saw gleams of hope, nonetheless.
For one, their internal numbers over the past three weeks have stabilized after the double whammy of the first presidential debate, in which Mr. Trump’s aggressive performance hurt him, and then his subsequent hospitalization for the coronavirus.
And while Mr. Biden continues to lead in places like Wisconsin and Arizona, he has also done so without breaking decisively into a double-digit lead, leaving open the possibility that the race will tighten alarmingly on Election Day, when in-person ballots come in.
Trump campaign officials are also watching the mammoth early voting numbers come in with some skepticism, because there’s nothing to compare them to. They think Democrats are not close to reaching the number of mail ballot requests they need if more than 40 percent of their voters plan to vote by mail.
An ABC News poll released Tuesday showed a one-point race in the battleground state of North Carolina, with Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump 49 percent to 48 percent, and was heralded as good news for a campaign that has invested heavily in the swing state.
And they think the Thursday night debate offers Mr. Trump one last chance to reset the dynamics before Election Day. Some of his advisers have told him to try and employ some humor, even acknowledging the reality that many of the suburban women voters and older voters he needs are turned off by his tone and his Twitter feed. One person advised him to pledge to tweet less in a second term.
Mr. Trump, however, has never been easy to coach, and is already coming in fuming, not only at Mr. Fauci and Ms. Stahl, but at the Presidential Debate Commission, for changing the rules, and at the moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, who he has been trying to claim is biased despite having praised her work in the past.
People in Florida and Alaska reported receiving menacing and deceptive emails on Tuesday that used false claims about public voting information to threaten voters: “Vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.” (There is no way for any group to know for whom individual voters cast their ballots.)
One of the emails, obtained by The New York Times, came from an address that suggested an affiliation with the Proud Boys, a far-right group. But metadata from the email shows that it did not come from the displayed email address — “[email protected]” — but instead originated from an Estonian email server.
The email obtained by The Times had been sent to a voter in Gainesville, Fla., and was nearly identical to dozens of others that had been reported in the city. Voters in Brevard County, Fla., and Anchorage, Alaska, also reported receiving similar emails.
Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville said in an interview that the emails were “a very brutish way of trying to intimidate people from going to the polls,” but that none of the voters he had talked to seemed to have been fooled.
Federal and local law enforcement authorities in Florida are investigating the emails, and have put out alerts on social media to warn voters.
“We here at the Sheriff’s Office and the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections are aware of an email that is circulating, purported to be from the Proud Boys,” the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook. “The email appears to be a scam and we will be initiating an investigation into the source of the email along with assistance from our partners on the federal level.”
Don Schwinn, 85, a retired environmental engineering consultant and snowbird who is registered as a Democrat in Melbourne Beach, Fla., said in an interview that he received one of the emails on Tuesday afternoon and reported it to the sheriff’s office.
He said it was troubling that Mr. Trump had not condemned the Proud Boys when he was asked about the group during his debate last month with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee.
“I actually thought it was real. The message was so threatening that it took over,” Mr. Schwinn said.
Mr. Schwinn said that he and his wife, who were both registered Republicans before the 2016 election, had already voted by absentee ballot.
In an election year functioning in a seemingly constant state of enmity, one in which few politicians and institutions have been unscathed from attacks, the two rival candidates vying to become Utah’s next governor are an outlier.
The Republican lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, and the Democratic candidate, Chris Peterson, appeared together in a series of new public service announcements promoting civility in politics.
In the ads, which were shared by the rivals on social media on Tuesday, the two candidates stand about six feet apart, with Mr. Cox wearing a red tie and an elephant button and Mr. Peterson in a blue tie with a donkey button.
In one ad, Mr. Cox says, “While I think you should vote for me,” before Mr. Peterson interjects, “Yeah, but really you should vote for me.”
Mr. Cox then concludes: “there are some things we can both agree on.”
The candidates, who are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that they wanted to set an example of how politicians should conduct themselves.
“We can debate issues without degrading each other’s character,” says Mr. Peterson, a first-time candidate and a law professor at the University of Utah.
Mr. Cox adds, “We can disagree without hating each other.”
In another one of the ads, Mr. Cox and Mr. Peterson both pledged to accept the outcome of the presidential election, something that President Trump has repeatedly balked at when asked in interviews and in his first debate with his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Whether you vote by mail or in person, we will fully support the results of the upcoming presidential election, regardless of the outcome,” Mr. Peterson says.
Mr. Cox echoes his opponent.
“Although we sit on different sides of the aisle we are both committed to American civility and a peaceful transition of power,” he says.
Mr. Peterson and Mr. Cox conclude the ads by saying in unison that they approve the messages.