President Trump made a bid to sand down his divisive political image by appropriating the resources of his office and the powers of the presidency at the Republican convention on Tuesday, breaching the traditional boundaries between campaigning and governing in an effort to broaden his appeal beyond his conservative base.
In an abrupt swerve from the dire tone of the convention’s first night, Mr. Trump staged a grab-bag of gauzy events and personal testimonials aimed in particular at female and minority voters. In videos recorded at the White House, Mr. Trump pardoned a Nevada man convicted of bank robbery and swore in five new American citizens, all of them people of color, in a miniature naturalization ceremony.
Where the convention on Monday emphasized predictions of social and economic desolation under a government led by Democrats, the second night speakers — including three from Mr. Trump’s immediate family — hailed the president as a friend to women and a champion of criminal justice reform. There was no effort to reconcile the dissonance between the two nights’ programs, particularly the shift from Monday’s rhetoric about a looming “vengeful mob” of dangerous criminals into Tuesday’s tributes to the power of personal redemption.
It was not clear whether this new appeal would change the minds of women, people of color and others who had formed negative opinions of Mr. Trump over the past five years, amid the allegations of sexual assault against him, the appeals to racial bigotry and hard-line policies like a border crackdown that separated migrant families.
The coronavirus pandemic was largely confined to parenthetical comments within the speeches, until Melania Trump, the first lady, addressed it directly in the final speech and extended her “deepest sympathy” to people who had lost loved ones. Like her husband, Mrs. Trump enlisted the trappings of the presidency for her remarks: She spoke from the White House Rose Garden.
Speaking in careful terms, the first lady sought to reframe Mr. Trump’s inflammatory conduct on race, which has undermined his standing in the polls. “My husband’s administration has worked to try and effect change around race and religion in this country,” she said. She also scolded the news media for focusing too much on “gossip” and lamented the abusive treatment of people on social media and the “downside of technology.”
Mrs. Trump said she did not want to use her speech to denounce her husband’s political adversaries, faulting Democrats for going on the attack in their convention last week and making no reference to the Republican convention’s intensely negative kickoff.
“That kind of talk,” she said, “only serves to divide the country further.”
A notable echo of the first night’s tone came from another Trump son, Eric, who followed his elder brother’s example to unleash biting attacks on Mr. Trump’s challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and the Democratic Party. Democrats, he said in prepared remarks, “want to disrespect our flag” and “disrespect our law enforcement” — staples of Monday’s overwhelmingly negative rhetoric that grew more muted on the convention’s second night.
If the messaging was generally less dark on Tuesday, it also veered inconsistently across disparate topics.
In a sign of the last-minute nature of the planning, there were a jumble of themes. Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa spoke about a recent powerful storm system that struck her state, soon after Tiffany Trump flayed the news media and cancel culture and immediately before Vice President Mike Pence appeared in an upbeat segment from Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home. That all took place after an anti-abortion activist described the procedure in precise detail, and a former Florida attorney general took aim at the overseas work of Hunter Biden, the son of Mr. Biden.
In addition to highlighting Mr. Trump’s efforts to help minority groups, some of the speakers, as they did on Monday, also highlighted Mr. Biden’s clumsy remarks on race. Recalling the former vice president’s claim that “you ain’t Black” if you don’t support him, which Mr. Biden has apologized for, Attorney General Daniel Cameron of Kentucky spoke directly at Mr. Biden: “Look at me, I am Black, we are not all the same.”
The gentler tenor of the proceedings was a departure not only from the previous night, but also from Mr. Trump’s own language earlier the same day. On Twitter, Mr. Trump spent parts of the afternoon railing against “anarchists and agitators” in Portland, Ore., and predicting rampant “fraud and abuse” through mail-in voting.
The convention again put on display Mr. Trump’s unchallenged grip on Republican politics, with the proceedings unfolding as a showy pageant led by members of the Trump family.
Early in the night, Mr. Trump issued a pardon for a Nevada man convicted in a 2004 bank robbery, using one of his unrestricted presidential powers in a video produced for the partisan event. Later in the program, the country’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, delivered a speech promoting Mr. Trump’s candidacy from the roof of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, flouting a norm that State Department officials abstain from electoral politics.
The Trump family members’ remarks further infused the gathering of a 166-year-old political party with an atmosphere of dynastic ambition, after Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, both spoke in prime time on Monday night. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka will introduce him on Thursday night when he accepts the party’s nomination.
Had there been any doubt about the dimensions of Mr. Trump’s political persona, and the license he is willing to take with his role as the country’s chief executive, the first two nights of the Republican convention would have dispensed with it. Mr. Pompeo’s appearance, the pardon and the parade of family members who would pay tribute to the president were stark reminders of Mr. Trump’s ability to impose his will on the party’s signature event of the election cycle. In keeping with his preferences, and not wanting to remind viewers of the coronavirus, nobody who appeared during the course of the evening wore a face mask.
There were, though, tacit acknowledgments from Republicans that they had to reach out to undecided voters.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, along with several other speakers, trumpeted the legislation overhauling criminal justice that the president signed. Tiffany Trump sought to portray her father as a champion of women and working mothers.
A handful of figures took the stage to praise the president and to warn blue-collar voters about Mr. Biden: a businessman and a dairy farmer from Wisconsin, a small-town mayor from the Iron Range in Minnesota and an eighth-generation Maine lobsterman, Jason Joyce. “He’ll be controlled by the environmental extremists,” Mr. Joyce, whose Down East accent left little doubt of his roots, said of the former vice president.
Soon after trying to broaden their appeal, though, Republicans quickly returned to appeals targeted more to their base. Cissie Graham Lynch, a granddaughter of Billy Graham, said Democrats were pushing schools to “allow boys to compete in girls sports and use girls locker rooms,” referring to transgender people, and the anti-abortion activist, Abby Johnson, recalled that Margaret Sanger, an early abortion rights pioneer, believed in eugenics.
The night also featured perhaps the bluntest character attack so far on Mr. Trump’s challenger when Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida, delivered a litany of accusations — some accurate, others misleading or exaggerated — against Mr. Biden and members of his family, who she claimed had sought to profit from his political career.
She singled out Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, for having served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president and deeply involved in Ukraine policy, an alleged a conflict of interest that has been widely covered in the news media.
“If they want to make this election between who’s saving America and who’s swindling America, bring it on,” Ms. Bondi said.
A few of the speakers struck a more conventionally Republican tone, relative to the rhetoric from the previous night that conjured widespread violence and national despair. In a recorded video, Larry Kudlow, the cable pundit turned presidential adviser, boasted of the “roaring success” of Mr. Trump’s economic policies before the pandemic struck. Echoing the false narrative pushed by Mr. Trump’s supporters on Monday night, Mr. Kudlow said the president’s firm intervention had brought the coronavirus under control, and promised that if Mr. Trump were re-elected, “more tax cuts and regulatory rollback will be in store.”
One young speaker, a Kentucky teenager named Nicholas Sandmann, last year sued multiple news media outlets, including The New York Times, for allegedly misrepresenting an encounter between him and a Native American protester during dueling demonstrations on the National Mall. He criticized the news media for what he depicted as unfair treatment of the president, and presented himself as an example of those who are “silenced by the far left.”
The combination of personal tributes and slashing attacks on Tuesday reflected the duality of both the convention and Mr. Trump’s Republican Party.
There was still a place for convention staples — family members, real-life stories and up-and-coming party figures. But figures like Ms. Reynolds, the first female governor of her Midwestern swing state, had to fully embrace a polarizing president as a close ally and appear on the same stage, or at least in the same program, with conservative provocateurs.
Much like the first night, the presentations veered between trumpeting Mr. Trump’s law-and-order mantra and promoting his support for some criminal justice reforms. The recipient of Mr. Trump’s pardon was Jon Ponder, who served prison time for several crimes including bank robbery. Mr. Ponder had already been granted clemency by a Nevada board for his state-level crimes. After his release, he founded an organization to help former prisoners re-enter society.
Mr. Trump dispensed the pardon in a recorded video that outlined Mr. Ponder’s biography and that featured him and the president discussing criminal justice reform along with Richard Beasley, the federal agent who arrested Mr. Ponder before becoming his friend.
“You have done incredible work,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “Congratulations.”
The staged naturalization ceremony showed Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, leading a small group of immigrants in the oath of citizenship, followed by Mr. Trump, who has consistently sought to restrict immigration, offering his congratulations to new Americans from countries including India and Ghana.
The airing of the video coincided with Mr. Trump’s announcement earlier on Tuesday that he would nominate Mr. Wolf to serve as permanent secretary; a government oversight report this month found that Mr. Wolf’s acting appointment had been improper. As the acting secretary, Mr. Wolf has been the face of the attempted federal crackdown on cities where protests have turned violent, notably Portland, Ore.
These belated appeals may find a skeptical audience among those not already backing Mr. Trump. The television ratings released for the Monday programming showed that the convention had drawn a smaller audience — about 17 million from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., according to Nielsen — than the equivalent night of the Democratic convention last week (19.7 million), and that a huge share of the viewership had been concentrated on the conservative-leaning Fox News.
Events overnight on Monday might further stoke Republicans’ message that Democrats would preside over a total breakdown of domestic security. In the Wisconsin suburb of Kenosha, protests erupted in violence and arson in response to the shooting on Sunday of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white officer in an encounter that was captured on video. Such scenes of destruction in a crucial swing state could play into Mr. Trump’s hands, even as polls show most voters disapprove of how the president has handled race relations and matters of law enforcement.
Democrats have largely ignored the vandalism linked to the unrest, and on Tuesday they kept hammering Mr. Trump on his response to the coronavirus crisis, the issue on which they believe he is most vulnerable.
“We haven’t even regained half of the jobs lost during the pandemic,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. “The economy has lost more than six million jobs since Trump took the wheel, including more than 250,000 factory jobs.”
Mr. Pompeo’s appearance, from Jerusalem, raised eyebrows but was in keeping with Mr. Trump’s penchant for eliminating the lines between the political and the official. Mr. Trump has made his support for Israel a major selling point of his candidacy, though he has acknowledged that some steps — like relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem — have earned him more good will with conservative evangelical voters than with American Jews.
Mr. Pompeo said that members of his own family “are more safe, and their freedoms more secure, because President Trump has put his America First vision into action,” asserting that it had not made him “popular in every foreign capital, but it’s worked.”