Casting aside her reluctance to engage in political combat, Michelle Obama delivered an impassioned keynote address to cap off the first night of the Democratic convention and offered a withering assessment of President Trump, accusing him of creating “chaos,” sowing “division” and governing “with a total and utter lack of empathy.”
Mrs. Obama, the former first lady, spoke emphatically into the camera and gave a scathing, point-by-point analysis of Mr. Trump’s presidency in an urgent summons for Democratic voters to cast ballots in any way they could, even if it meant waiting in long lines to do so.
She began by questioning the very legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, pointing out that he had lost the popular tally by “three million votes.”
She went on to attack the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and said that the strong economy Mr. Trump inherited from her husband four years ago was “in shambles.” She also said Mr. Trump’s divisive approach on race relations had emboldened “torch-bearing white supremacists,” and ripped him for a lack of “leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness.”
Mrs. Obama began all of this by declaring, “You know, I hate politics.”
Then she dove right in.
“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” Mrs. Obama said, offering a potent closing argument to a packed online program that seemed, at times, like an overpopulated Zoom call.
“He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is,” she added.
Mrs. Obama’s speech, which aired in the final hour, has been in the can for at least a week, according to people familiar with the matter. The speech was prerecorded because event planners did not want to risk running it live, in anticipation of opening-night technical glitches.
Back in 2012, President Barack Obama’s advisers routinely referred to Mrs. Obama as “the most popular” political figure in the country — and many thought her rousing, resonant and mostly optimistic speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte that year was the apex of that non-virtual event.
Her tone, like the times, was very different on Monday night.
Mrs. Obama, reaching the end of her 20-minute time slot, cast the race not as merely the most important election of her lifetime, but as a last chance, of sorts, to redeem the nation from the steep moral, political and economic decline precipitated by Mr. Trump.
“So, if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election,” Mrs. Obama said. “If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”
Democrats opened the most extraordinary presidential nominating convention in recent history on Monday night with a program that spanned the ideological gamut from socialists to Republicans, and at times more closely resembled an online awards show than a traditional summer pageant of American democracy.
The two-hour event, truncated and conducted virtually because of the coronavirus crisis, was a vivid illustration of how widespread opposition to President Trump and the still-raging pandemic have upended the country’s politics.
Kicking off a four-day conclave during which they hope to both win over moderates who are uneasy with Mr. Trump’s divisive leadership and energize liberals who are unenthusiastic about their own nominee, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrats reached for the recent past.
They showcased the leader of the left and their reigning presidential runner-up, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont; a handful of Republican defectors, including former Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio; and the most popular figure from the previous administration — the former first lady, Michelle Obama.
With no arena, and no loudspeaker to introduce the presenters, Democrats turned to an M.C. of sorts, the actress Eva Longoria, who kept the evening moving between prerecorded and live video presentations. A lineup of political luminaries delivered remarks in rapid-fire format and only a few of them — Mrs. Obama, for one, and Mr. Sanders — possessed the sheer star power to linger in the perception of the audience.
“The past four years have left us, as a nation, diminished and divided,” Ms. Longoria said at the opening of the program, alluding to the pandemic, its economic devastation and much else.
After introductory segments, the program devoted attention to the protests against racial injustice. Appearing above the Black Lives Matter logo painted on the street across from the White House, the mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel E. Bowser, recounted her anger over Mr. Trump’s deployment of federal troops against protesters this summer.
“I said ‘Enough’ for every Black and brown American who has experienced injustice,” Ms. Bowser said.
Perhaps the most searing critique of Mr. Trump came not from an elected official but from Kristin Urquiza, a young woman whose father, a Trump supporter, died of the coronavirus. Speaking briefly and in raw terms about her loss, Ms. Urquiza said of her father, “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life.”
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Monday portrayed it as an imperative to defeat President Trump, offering a call for unity to progressive voters who supported him during the primary.
“Many of the ideas we fought for that just a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream,” he said. “But let us be clear. If Donald Trump is re-elected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.”
“At its most basic,” he added, “this election is about preserving our democracy.”
Mr. Sanders came up short against Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the Democratic primary race, but he ended his campaign and lined up behind his rival more quickly this year than he had done in his 2016 race against Hillary Clinton.
Addressing his supporters, Mr. Sanders expressed gratitude and said that “our movement continues and is getting stronger every day.” He noted that he and Mr. Biden disagreed over health care, but he nonetheless presented Mr. Biden as worthy of support.
“Together we must build a nation that is more equitable, more compassionate and more inclusive,” Mr. Sanders said. “I know that Joe Biden will begin that fight on Day 1.”
Mr. Sanders made an explicit appeal to those who supported candidates other than Mr. Biden during the primary race, warning that “the price of failure is just too great to imagine.”
“My friends, I say to you, to everyone who supported other candidates in the primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake,” Mr. Sanders said. “The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, whose centrist run for the Democratic presidential nomination echoed many of the same themes struck by Joseph R. Biden Jr. in his campaign, made the case for moderation and compromise on Monday in a party moving rapidly to the left.
“Unity isn’t about settling,” said Ms. Klobuchar, who provided a key endorsement for Mr. Biden before the critical Super Tuesday contests. “It’s about striving for something more. It isn’t the end, it’s the means. It’s how to get stuff done.”
She had been seen as a possible vice-presidential pick, but she removed herself from contention in June and urged Mr. Biden to choose a woman of color.
Her appearance was followed by a montage of Biden love from other 2020 presidential candidates, including his new running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.
Ms. Klobuchar joined the chorus of Democrats calling out Mr. Trump for attacking the legitimacy of mail-in balloting and opposing increased funding for the Postal Service.
“I believe the right to vote is fundamental and the post office is essential,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “The president may hate the post office, but he’s still going to have to send them a change of address card come January.”
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada on Monday defended the integrity of voting by mail.
President Trump has assailed voting by mail for months, claiming baselessly that the process is riddled with fraud. Ms. Cortez Masto, the former attorney general of Nevada, pushed back.
“Despite what the president says, voting by mail has been a secure, proven option for decades,” Ms. Cortez Masto, the first Latina senator in history, said.
She added that Mr. Trump was “putting the lives of Nevada’s seniors at risk by trying to defund the Post Office.”
“Here’s what that means: Seniors won’t be able to get their prescriptions because he wants to win an election,” she continued. “Well, Mr. President, Nevada is not intimidated by you. America is not intimidated by you. We are united by shared values, shared history and shared rights, including our fundamental right to vote.”
Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, the most endangered Democratic incumbent this year, invoked the legacy of two of his state’s civil rights heroes — Rosa Parks and Representative John Lewis — to rally support for Mr. Biden.
Mr. Jones faces a tough fight against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in a state that supported Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton by a nearly 30-point margin.
He was, not surprisingly, one of the few speakers on Monday not to criticize Mr. Trump by name, instead referring vaguely to “some politicians” who “try to pit us against each other.”
But he tried to keep the message hopeful, upbeat and grounded in his state’s seminal role in the fight for racial equality in the 1960s.
“It was here in Alabama where Rosa Parks helped ignite a movement by refusing to give up her seat on the bus — where freedom riders of different races came together in pursuit of equality,” he added. “And it was here in Alabama where John Lewis marched across a bridge toward freedom.”
When John R. Kasich, then Ohio’s governor, ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he warned about “two paths” facing voters. Primary voters did not pick the path that Mr. Kasich had recommended, and Donald J. Trump became the party’s nominee.
Now, Mr. Kasich is the most prominent Republican on the schedule for the Democratic convention, and he plans to vote for Mr. Biden this fall.
“I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country,” Mr. Kasich said. “That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen. But these are not normal times.”
Mr. Kasich spoke of paths once again on Monday, using a visual to drive home the point: He appeared at the literal intersection of two paths. He said the current path had “led to division, dysfunction, irresponsibility and growing vitriol between our citizens.”
Mr. Kasich offered praise for Mr. Biden, whom he said he had known for 30 years, describing him as “a good man, a man of faith, a unifier.”
“I’m sure there are Republicans and independents who couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat,” Mr. Kasich said. “They fear Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don’t believe that, because I know the measure of the man.”
He added, “No one pushes Joe around.”
Aboard Air Force One on Monday, Mr. Trump dismissed Mr. Kasich as a “loser.”
“He was a loser as a Republican and he’ll be a loser as a Democrat,” the president said. “Major loser as a Republican. I guess you can quote me on that. John was a loser as a Republican. Never even came close. And as a Democrat he’ll be an even greater loser.”
One by one, the Republican women appeared on the screen. There was the former governor of New Jersey, who served in the George W. Bush administration, a former Republican candidate for governor of California and a longtime Republican congresswoman.
And one by one, they each took the extraordinary step of making the affirmative case for the Democratic presidential nominee, on the first night of his convention.
The presence, at Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s virtual convention, of former Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, Meg Whitman, a former Republican candidate in California and now the chief executive of the streaming company Quibi, and of former Representative Susan Molinari of New York, underscored the depths of President Trump’s challenges with moderate voters, especially women, who have increasingly moved away from the G.O.P. under his leadership.
And Mr. Biden’s decision to feature those Republicans also highlighted his campaign’s efforts to engage independent voters and moderate Republicans who are disillusioned with President Trump’s divisive style, even if they are also uncomfortable with the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
“This isn’t about a Republican or Democrat,” Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor said. “It’s about a person. A person decent enough, stable enough, strong enough, to get our economy back on track. A person who can work with everyone, Democrats and Republicans, to get things done. Donald Trump isn’t that person. Joe Biden is.”
Meg Whitman of Quibi, who introduced herself as a “longtime Republican and a longtime CEO,” said that the president ‘has no clue how to run a business, let alone an economy.”
And Ms. Molinari, who noted that she had long known Mr. Trump — also a New Yorker — and had also worked with Mr. Biden, vouched for the Democrat’s character.
Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican who ran for the G.O.P. nomination in 2016, followed Ms. Molinari, and the segment closed with a video of testimonials featuring Republicans voting for Mr. Biden.
The speakers’ remarks about Mr. Biden were brief, and they are not representative of most Republican voters who, polls show, are strongly supportive of Mr. Trump. A number of the speakers also supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. But their prominent presence at the Democratic convention sent a clear message about the opportunity the Biden campaign sees to make inroads with disaffected moderates who feel politically homeless in the Trump era.
Some of the most striking comments of the first hour of the Democratic convention on Monday came from a woman few Americans may have heard of before Monday.
That speaker, Kristin Urquiza, whose father died this summer in Arizona, opened her brief but impassioned speech bluntly: “I’m one of the many who have lost a loved one to Covid,” she said. “My dad, Mark Anthony Urquiza, should be here today, but he isn’t.”
The reason, she asserted, was President Trump.
“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old,” she said. “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.”
Ms. Urquiza garnered attention this year when she wrote an obituary published in The Arizona Republic in which she laid blame for her father’s death at the feet of state and federal leaders and their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, she walked through her thinking for a national television audience, saying that her father had voted for Mr. Trump, had “had faith” in him, and had believed it would be OK to go to a karaoke bar soon after Arizona’s stay-at-home order had been lifted.
Speaking as pictures of her father flashed across the screen, Ms. Urquiza said he had “died alone, in the I.C.U., with a nurse holding his hand.”
“Donald Trump may not have caused the coronavirus, but his dishonesty and his irresponsible actions made it so much worse,” she said.
“One of the last things that my father said to me was that he felt betrayed by the likes of Donald Trump,” she added. “And so when I cast my vote for Joe Biden, I will do it for my dad.”
Ms. Urquiza’s message is already being underscored in an advertisement from Nuestro PAC, a super PAC led by former aides to Bernie Sanders that is focusing on turning out Latino voters.
The ad, which will air in Arizona and North Carolina to start, begins with Ms. Urquiza thumbing through photos of her father.
“My father died of Covid in an I.C.U. room, with a nurse holding his hand,” she says. “My father, like so many others, should not have died from Covid-19. His death is due to the carelessness of Donald Trump and the politicians who continue to jeopardize our health through a clear lack of leadership.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan on Monday invoked the coronavirus as she talked up the leadership that Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, would bring to addressing the pandemic.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will lead by example,” Ms. Whitmer said. “It’ll be science, not politics or ego, that will drive their decisions. They know the health of our people goes hand in hand with the strength of our economy. They know action begets action.”
Ms. Whitmer continued: “Over the past few months, we’ve learned what’s essential. Rising to the challenge, not denying it. We’ve learned who is essential, too. Not just the wealthiest among us. Not a president who fights his fellow Americans rather than fight the virus that’s killing us and our economy.”
Ms. Whitmer, a national co-chair of Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign, was one of the top contenders to be his running mate. She remains a prominent Biden ally in a battleground state that Mr. Biden is fighting to reclaim after President Trump’s victory there in 2016.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York unloaded on President Trump for his response to the coronavirus that savaged his state this spring, accusing the White House of first trying to “ignore” the crisis then fumbling the response by “trying to politicize it.”
New Yorkers, and viewers of cable news, have seen this performance before: His daily news briefings became must-see television, suddenly making Mr. Cuomo one of the most prominent Democrats in the country after a lack of support scuttled his own hopes of seeking the presidency.
Mr. Cuomo, whose initial actions during the pandemic have come under criticism, accused Mr. Trump of “learning absolutely nothing” from the lessons of the outbreak, and said Democrats wear masks “because we are smart.”
Echoing the rhetoric of other Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, Mr. Cuomo likened the intense partisanship of the Trump era to a disease, and compared the impact of his presidency to a weakening of the immune system in the national body politic.
“Americans learned a critical lesson, how vulnerable we are when we are divided,” he said. “And how many lives can be lost when our government is incompetent.”
“Donald Trump didn’t create the initial division. The division created Trump. He only made it worse,” he added.
When Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina backed Joseph R. Biden Jr. shortly before the primary in that state, the endorsement provided Mr. Biden with a much-needed boost that helped him resurrect his campaign.
Mr. Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, recalled that endorsement in brief remarks from Charleston. Mr. Biden, he declared, “will always be an adopted son of South Carolina.”
“Joe Biden is as good a man as he is a leader,” Mr. Clyburn said. “I have said before and wish to reiterate tonight, we know Joe. But more importantly, Joe knows us.”
Mr. Clyburn also spoke of his own community, recalling African-Americans who “arrived on these shores in bondage,” as well as the killing of nine Black churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a white supremacist in 2015.
“The ground beneath our feet is seeded with pain that is both old and new,” Mr. Clyburn said. “But from that soil we always find a way to grow together.”
Mr. Clyburn cited hopeful signs: the removal of a statue in Charleston of John C. Calhoun, as well as the construction in that city of the International African American Museum.
“Much like the country as a whole, we are stepping out from the shadows of our past and beginning to lay the groundwork for a more just future,” Mr. Clyburn said. “It won’t be easy. We can only succeed if we move forward together. So we will need a president who sees unifying people as a requirement of the job.”
Philonise and Rodney Floyd, brothers of George Floyd, the Black Minneapolis man whose killing by the police prompted a wave of national protest, led a moment of silence for the victims of police violence during the opening hour of the convention.
“My brother George was selfless, he always made sacrifices for his family, friends and even complete strangers,” Philonise Floyd said. “George had a giving spirit, a spirit that has shown up on streets around our nation and around the world.”
The Floyds’ presence underscored the message behind the protests — one of equality and the need to fight systemic racism, something Mr. Biden emphasized during a follow-up discussion with the parents of victims of police violence.
The theme is central to Democrats as they face a president who has emulated the law-and-order message touted by white conservatives since the days of George Wallace and Richard Nixon.
The intensity of emotion evoked by the moment of silence, the speeches and the testimonials by parents heightened the sense of urgency in an online event that began in a smooth but somewhat antiseptic fashion.
Muriel E. Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C., speaking moments before the Floyds, launched the first of what will be many attacks on President Trump, accusing him of fanning “the flames of racism” and “plotting” to crack down on peaceful protesters calling for racial justice near the White House in June.
Representative Gwen Moore, Democrat of Wisconsin, briefly spoke as well. She represents Milwaukee, where Democrats had planned to hold their convention before the pandemic prompted the party to make it mostly virtual.
“What better way to gather than all across America to nominate my beloved friend Joe Biden, to be the 46th president of the United States of America, with my V.I.P., V.P. nominee, sister Kamala Harris by his side,” Ms. Moore said. “Tonight we are gathered to reclaim the soul of America. So if you’re ready to come together, America, text join to 30330. Thank you, I love you all and God bless you.”
She introduced a video segment that was accompanied by Bruce Springsteen singing “The Rising,” which included a clip of Mr. Biden exhorting a crowd to embrace “unity over division.”
There was no cheering crowd, no camera shots of a cavernous arena. At 9 p.m. on Monday, Democrats began a political convention without precedent — a four-day gathering that will mostly be held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The televised proceedings began with an introduction from the actress Eva Longoria, who is serving as the M.C. for the evening. A montage showed people reading the preamble to the Constitution, including Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq; the liberal activist Ady Barkan; and Mr. Biden himself.
Then five of Mr. Biden’s grandchildren recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Before the pandemic, the Democratic convention had been planned for Milwaukee. Ms. Longoria, appearing from Los Angeles, acknowledged the change of plans.
“We had hoped to gather in one place,” Ms. Longoria said, “but instead we figured out a safe and responsible way to come together to share our ideas and talk about the future of our country.”
Ms. Longoria said Monday’s proceedings would focus on what she described as three crises: the pandemic, the faltering economy and racial injustice.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the white couple from St. Louis who brandished weapons at Black Lives Matter protesters passing their mansion on the way to the mayor’s house in June, will be featured during next week’s Republican National Convention, a lawyer for the couple confirmed.
The McCloskeys gained national attention earlier this summer for a Bonnie-and-Clyde-style tableau in front of their marble mansion. President Trump promoted the story, retweeting a video of the confrontation and helping to exacerbate racial divisions at a time when Americans across the country were protesting police brutality and demanding social justice reforms after the killing of George Floyd.
Featuring them prominently at the convention appeared to be a political play to aggrieved white voters unhappy with those social justice demands. Mr. Trump in recent days has been tweeting about saving the suburbs from an influx of minorities, appealing to racist fears by saying that because of his leadership, suburban dwellers “will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.”
At the time of the incident, the couple said through their lawyer that they were not brandishing their guns at the peaceful protesters but at a few aggressors. They said those people were white and part of the group and had “tarnished” the peaceful protest.
A lawyer for the couple, Albert Watkins, said in an interview that Mark McCloskey would “definitely be speaking” at the convention but his wife, Patricia, was not expected to speak. “She will be at her husband’s side,” he said. “She is not built for this.”
Mr. Watkins said the McCloskeys would be part of a live video presentation at the convention. “They, like many Americans, are horrified, if not mortified, at the prospect of their constitutional rights being compromised by the constitutional rights of others,” he added. “My clients will fight to their death and they have professionally done so for 30 years each.”
A Trump campaign official confirmed the couple’s involvement. Their plans to participate were first reported by The Washington Post.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who has come under fire for financial ties to a company that does business with the United States Postal Service, received between $1.2 million and $7 million in income last year from that firm, according to financial disclosure forms reviewed by The New York Times.
Mr. DeJoy continues to hold between $25 million and $50 million in that company, XPO Logistics, where he was chief executive until 2015 and a board member until 2018. Those stock holdings were first reported last week by CNN.
But documents filed with the Office of Government Ethics show that Mr. DeJoy also receives millions of dollars in rental payments from XPO through leasing agreements at buildings that he owns. The revelations are likely to fuel further scrutiny of Mr. DeJoy, a major donor to President Trump who has made cost-cutting moves and other changes at the Postal Service that Democrats warn are aimed at undermining the 2020 election.
Mr. DeJoy agreed on Monday to testify next week before the House Oversight Committee, where Democrats are expected to press him on the justification for his policies and question his potential conflicts of interest.
Mr. DeJoy has maintained that he has fully complied with federal ethics rules and that the measures he has implemented are necessary to modernize the Postal Service. “I take my ethical obligations seriously, and I have done what is necessary to ensure that I am and will remain in compliance with those obligations,” Mr. DeJoy said in a statement.
Financial documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of Government Ethics show Mr. DeJoy earned millions in rental income last year from XPO, though the exact amount could not be determined because the office’s disclosure forms only give a range of figures.
Elsewhere on the postal front:
Two Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee urged the F.B.I. to open a criminal investigation into actions by Mr. DeJoy and the Postal Service’s Board of Governors that may have caused mail delays. “Multiple media investigations show that Postmaster DeJoy and the Board of Governors have retarded the passage of mail,” Representatives Ted W. Lieu of California and Hakeem Jeffries of New York wrote in a letter to the F.B.I. director. “If their intent in doing so was to affect mail-in balloting or was motivated by personal financial reasons, then they likely committed crimes.”
Mail-in voters from six states filed a lawsuit against Mr. Trump and Mr. DeJoy, seeking to block cuts to the Postal Service ahead of the election. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on behalf of 17 plaintiffs from California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York, asks the court to declare that Mr. Trump and Mr. DeJoy have violated voters’ rights by cutting the Postal Service in an effort to stymie mail-in voting.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the majority leader, pushed back on Monday on concerns that the Postal Service would not be able to handle as many as 80 million ballots come November, telling reporters in his home state that “the Postal Service is going to be just fine” and that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had already signaled a willingness to spend more on it.
The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said Sunday that she would call the House back from its annual summer recess almost a month early to vote this week on legislation to block changes at the Postal Service.
Postal slowdowns and warnings of delayed mail-in ballots are causing election officials to rethink vote-by-mail strategies, with some states seeking to bypass the post office with ballot drop boxes, drive-through drop-offs or expanded in-person voting options, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 election was supposed to be the largest-ever experiment in voting by mail, but the Trump administration’s late cost-cutting push at the Postal Service has shaken the confidence of voters and Democratic officials alike. The images of sorting machines being removed from postal facilities, mailboxes uprooted or bolted shut on city streets, and packages piling up at mail facilities have sparked anger and deep worry.
Even if, as the Postal Service says, it has plenty of capacity to process mail-in ballots, the fear is that the psychological damage is already done. So as Democrats in Washington fight to restore Postal Service funding, election officials around the country are looking for a Plan B.
“The office has been flooded with calls for the past few days,” said Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state of Arizona and a Democrat. “The concern I have is that, like any campaign of misinformation, it attempts to undermine voters’ confidence in our process.”
The newest front in the battle over voting in 2020 is the drop box, where ballots mailed out to voters can be returned without fear of Postal Service backlogs or coronavirus infection. Once voters deposit their ballots in such boxes, they are collected by election officials and brought to polling places for tabulation.
Election officials in Connecticut, Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are seeking to expand drop-off locations for absentee and mail-in ballots, but they have met vehement opposition from President Trump and his campaign.
OSHKOSH, Wis. — With the Democratic National Convention set to kick off, President Trump offered a dose of counterprogramming on Monday, campaigning the old-fashioned way despite the coronavirus pandemic.
After making stops in Minnesota earlier in the day, the president traveled to the battleground state of Wisconsin, where at least 700 supporters gathered for an event at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and cheered wildly as Air Force One landed.
Plenty of red hats but few masks could be seen in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, which was overwhelmingly white and older. “Four more years!” the crowd chanted.
Supporters mostly cheered Mr. Trump’s talking points, such as support for gun rights, law enforcement and rebuilding the economy. “Do you want to defund and defame and dismantle the police?” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t think so.”
The applause faltered noticeably, however, when the president brought up the topic of the coronavirus. “We handled it,” he said. “We handled it well.”
Oshkosh is in Winnebago County, which voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but swung to Mr. Trump in 2016. The president’s visit was the latest example of what is turning out to be an asymmetrical campaign, with Mr. Trump making in-person appearances before crowds while his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., refrains from holding rally-style events.
Democrats had planned to hold an in-person convention in Milwaukee this week, but the gathering will now be mostly virtual, and Mr. Biden will not be traveling to Wisconsin.
Speaking hours before the Democratic convention began, Mr. Trump suggested the upcoming programming would not be enticing. “Who wants to listen to Michelle Obama do a taped speech?” he asked.
Kay Nolan reported from Oshkosh, and Thomas Kaplan from Wilmington, Del.
Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security during President Trump’s term, endorsed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for president on Monday, saying what he witnessed the current president do as chief executive “was terrifying.”
Mr. Taylor, who made the announcement ahead of the first night of the Democratic National Convention, is the most senior former member of the administration to openly endorse Mr. Biden, and he joins a small number of other officials, including the former national security adviser John Bolton, who have publicly questioned Mr. Trump’s management of the government.
In a testimonial video for the group Republican Voters Against Trump, Mr. Taylor said that each week working there “was terrifying.” He described officials going to the White House to try to discuss a range of national security threats with the president, only to find him uninterested.
“The president wanted to exploit the Department of Homeland Security for his own political purposes, and to fuel his own agenda,” Mr. Taylor said in the video. He recalled a phone call related to the California wildfires, during which Mr. Trump told Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to “stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down” because he was so incensed the state hadn’t voted for him.
Mr. Taylor said that Mr. Trump also wanted to have a “deliberate policy” of separating children from their parents during illegal border crossings as a deterrent.
“A lot of the times the things he wanted to do not only were impossible but in many cases illegal,” Mr. Taylor recalled. “He didn’t want us to tell him it was illegal anymore because he knew that there were — and these were his words — he knew that he had ‘magical authorities.’”
“He was one of the most unfocused and undisciplined senior executives I’ve ever encountered,” Mr. Taylor said. “I came away completely convinced based on firsthand experience that the president was ill-equipped and wouldn’t become equipped to do his job effectively, and what’s worse, was actively doing damage to our security.”
Former staff members of the presidential campaign of Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor whose failed billion-dollar bid for the White House lasted just over three months, have called for him to be removed from the Democrats’ convention program.
Hours after their demand was made public, a source close to Mr. Bloomberg said the party-hopping billionaire planned to donate $60 million to House Democrats, about the same amount he shelled out in 2018.
The debate over Mr. Bloomberg’s presence on the program illustrates the unique challenges faced by a party seeking to fuse together a disparate coalition of progressives, unions and monied moderates like the former mayor.
Six former employees, who are among those who have sued Mr. Bloomberg for wrongful termination, released an open letter on Monday to the Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez asking him to cancel Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks “and replace him with a Democratic politician or labor leader who supports workers’ rights and other core Democratic Party values.”
They also asked Mr. Perez, whose organization received an $18 million transfer from Mr. Bloomberg in March, for their jobs back and the opportunity to work in the field for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The letter was signed by people who had worked as field organizers for Mr. Bloomberg in Georgia, Utah and Washington State and are involved in one of several lawsuits against Mr. Bloomberg relating to the terms under which they were let go when he dropped out of the race in March.
In the suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan last spring, the former staff members alleged that Mr. Bloomberg had tricked them into taking jobs that they expected to last through the election — regardless of who won the Democratic nomination.
The workers summarized their grievances anew in the letter to Mr. Perez on Monday, noting that thousands like them had been abruptly terminated in the midst of the pandemic. “This is the type of greedy, anti-worker move we’d expect from Donald Trump, but not from a Democratic presidential candidate,” they wrote.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bloomberg disputed the former employees’ claims on Monday. “Like every campaign that ends, people were let go. Unlike other campaigns however, Mike Bloomberg gave his staff health insurance through November as well as severance,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email, calling Mr. Bloomberg “the biggest supporter of the Democratic Party.”
Mr. Bloomberg also responded monetarily: He plans to fund broadcast and digital ads to help protect the seats of Democratic moderates elected two years ago, a person close to him said.
The donation was first reported by the Washington Post.
The former staffers named a dozen other public figures, including politicians like Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and labor leaders like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, whom they argued ought to take Mr. Bloomberg’s spot.
“All of these people are far better suited to credibly and powerfully speak about the values that we hold dear as Democrats and the things Democrats want to accomplish to make our economy work for working families again,” they wrote, “instead of further rigging the system for billionaires like Mike Bloomberg to make even more profit.”
New national surveys show that Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintains a significant if slightly diminished lead over President Trump, leaving him in a stronger position to oust an incumbent president than any challenger heading into his party’s convention in the modern polling era.
On average, Mr. Biden leads by eight to nine percentage points among likely voters. His advantage is perhaps slightly smaller than it was a month ago, when high-quality live-interview telephone surveys routinely showed him with a double-digit lead. But it is still the largest and most persistent national polling lead that any candidate has held in 24 years, since Bill Clinton maintained a double-digit advantage as an incumbent in 1996.
The conventions often introduce a volatile and uncertain period for public polling, as candidates usually gain in the polls after several days in the limelight on national television. Though the virtual nature of this year’s conventions could dampen that effect, this may be the last unbiased measurement of the state of the race until mid-September.
For now, the state of the race is clear, ending a nearly two-month period when live-interview and online polls showed a modestly different race. The new consensus can mainly be attributed to a shift among live-interview telephone surveys, which show a modest two-point shift in Mr. Trump’s direction. The online polls have remained largely unchanged.
It is too soon to evaluate what effect Mr. Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate might have. So far, there are no early signs that she has revitalized his standing among nonwhite voters. The only two telephone surveys conducted entirely after her selection, from CNN/SSRS and ABC News/Washington Post, show Mr. Biden faring somewhat worse among nonwhite voters than in their prior surveys from June or July.