In Minnesota, the Trump campaign started running a new ad that opens with a jarring juxtaposition. “Lawless criminals terrorized Minneapolis. Joe Biden takes a knee,” the announcer says as an image of Mr. Biden kneeling during a meeting at a Black church appears, superimposed over video of a burning building.
“It started here, sadly,” said Jason Lewis, a candidate for United States Senate who is challenging the Democratic incumbent, Senator Tina Smith. “But the Democrats have overreached. And because of their initial refusal to condemn the riots and to stand down and to not do something about public safety, they own this.”
Mr. Lewis’ campaign conducted a poll last week showing him within two points of his opponent and Mr. Trump down three points.
But Mr. Trump’s gravitational pull is everything in Republican politics, as Mr. Lewis acknowledged. In 2018, he lost his suburban Minneapolis House seat to a Democrat. “With this guy, you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound,” he said. And as much as some voters might be appalled at the street violence, Mr. Trump is taking the wrong approach to winning them over, some Republicans said.
“He actually is talking about issues that people care about, but he’s using language that makes it less effective,” said Frank Luntz, a veteran adviser to Republican campaigns who has been critical of the president.
“The problem with ‘law and order,’ if you ask voters they will tell you they think of cops hitting protesters over the head, and nobody wants that. Trump is using the language of 1968, and it’s 2020,” Mr. Luntz said.
With more Democrats speaking the language of law enforcement, Republicans may find their approach even less effective. From Kansas, Ms. Davids spoke of being raised by a mother who served in the Army and then worked for a time in law enforcement. She said she has attended rallies for racial justice and sat down with police leaders. Somewhere in between, she said, is where most Americans are.