Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In 2016, Donald Trump pledged to "build the wall." In 2020, he's promising to be the wall.

The big picture: The president's rhetorical imagery is shifting from big, physical barriers against illegal immigration to a show of force against threats to the suburbs.

  • In recent weeks, Trump has conjured images of Joe Biden inviting looters, rioters, radical leftists and unidentified thugs in dark uniforms to run wild.
  • Trump has suggested scenarios ranging from new public housing construction that lowers property values — to unbridled rape, or murder.

Why it matters: Trump's trying to say he is the wall between chaos and your community.

  • "The fact is that we've seen tremendous violence, and we will put it out very, very quickly, if given the chance," Trump said during his visit to Kenosha, Wisc., this week.
  • This imagery gives him an off-ramp to steer debate away from the coronavirus, which has taken more than 187,000 U.S. lives on Trump's watch, and make Biden sound dangerous — a tactic some Democrats worry could put Biden on the defensive.

Driving the news: The president painted multiple human-wall pictures in a speech this week in Latrobe, Pa.

On guns, he falsely asserted that he's holding back Democrats from taking away Americans' rights to keep guns.

  • "I am standing between them and your Second Amendment and that's it," Trump said. (Fact check: Biden has said repeatedly that he supports the Second Amendment.)
  • Trump visually underscored his message by making an up-and-down chopping motion with one hand, depicting a barrier between gun owners and Democrats.

On monuments, Trump figuratively deputized others who share his views to his human-wall cavalry.

  • Calling out to members of the Boilermakers Local 154 union in the crowd who had endorsed him, he asked: "How do you like the idea of taking down our statues to our great George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, all of them? I don't think the Boilermakers would — you'll do a ring around Washington, right?"
  • "They tried to take down Christopher Columbus statues in New York," Trump said. "You saw what happened, right? These Italians formed a little circle. They said, 'Come on!'" he said, raising a fist as if to fight. "The agitators decided to leave."

Between the lines: Immigration has slipped significantly from 2016 in terms of Americans' priorities heading into the election — and most Americans do not support the construction of a physical border wall or hard-line immigration policies, per an NPR-Ipsos poll from late July.

  • Immigration fell to 12th place in terms of most worrisome topics, the poll found. COVID-19 commanded a clear lead, followed by health care, political polarization, racial injustice and crime or gun violence.
  • Still, the generic idea of a barrier that can protect people from elements they fear can provide comfort to people, which could potentially be converted to loyalty and votes.

Go deeper

Updated 18 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden has $141 million more on hand than Trump

Combination images of President Trump and his 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and joint fundraising committees had $466 million in cash on hand, the presidential candidate's team announced late Sunday.

Why it matters: President Trump's campaign had $325 million cash on hand, his campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh announced Friday.

Biden to Senate GOP after RBG passing: "Please follow your conscience"

Joe Biden made a direct appeal to Senate Republicans in a speech addressing the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, urging them to "cool the flames that have been engulfing our country" by waiting to confirm her replacement until after the election.

The state of play: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said soon after the news of Ginsburg's death that President Trump's nominee would get a vote on the Senate floor.

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 31,186,000 — Total deaths: 962,343— Total recoveries: 21,327,416Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 p.m. ET: 6,832,970 — Total deaths: 199,816 — Total recoveries: 2,615,519 — Total tests: 95,841,281Map.
  3. Health: CDC says it mistakenly published guidance about COVID-19 spreading through air.
  4. Media: Conservative blogger who spread COVID-19 misinformation worked for Fauci's agency.
  5. Politics: House Democrats file legislation to fund government through Dec. 11.
  6. World: U.K. upgrades COVID alert level as Europe sees worrying rise in infections — "The Wake-Up Call" warns the West about the consequences of mishandling a pandemic.

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