The Trump election campaign team is deeply divided about how best to go after Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden.
Initially, the Trump re-election effort focused on viral videos of every verbal stumble Mr Biden makes in interviews, relentlessly pushing the idea that he is mentally unfit for the presidency.
"There is something missing," Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said last week in a campaign broadcast. "I feel bad for him. I wish his wife would pull him out of this."
But behind the scenes, the offensive has become a divisive issue among some of Mr Trump's closest advisers, who have spent weeks debating without resolution the best message and strategy to accomplish the Trump campaign's central goal of tarnishing the Biden brand as poll numbers continue to show a rocky road to re-election for the president.
Several political advisers, including White House senior aide Kellyanne Conway, have warned his allies against relentlessly mocking 77-year-old Mr Biden's mental acuity because the president has already lost ground with senior citizens.
If Mr Trump and his political machine don't find a way to drive up Mr Biden's unpopularity with voters, senior Democratic and Republican strategists argue the president will have little shot at winning a second term.
"We have to introduce people to a different Joe Biden," a Trump campaign adviser said.
"One of the reasons we won in 2016 is because so many people hated Hillary Clinton. I'm not sure people hate Biden that much."
Republicans need the election to be a choice between Mr Biden and Mr Trump and not a referendum on the president's performance and rhetoric in office, according to Republican and Democratic strategists.
The debate over when and how to launch a focused and sustained attack on Mr Biden with paid advertising has yet to be resolved, according to multiple sources.
"There are advisers telling him to wait until the convention. Other people are saying go at it now," said one Trump campaign adviser, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It is not decided."
Adding to the dilemma for the president's campaign is that the coronavirus pandemic has focused the spotlight on Mr Trump and his controversial handling of the outbreak while Mr Biden maintains a relatively low profile, doing interviews and virtual campaign events from a basement office at his home in Delaware.
The pandemic has delayed an anti-Biden advertising offensive by the vastly wealthier Trump campaign, allowing Democratic super political action committees (PACs) to outspend Republicans in key swing states over the past month.
Mr Biden's approval ratings are also far stronger than those of Ms Clinton at this point in 2016.
"Our expectation was always that Trump would go on the offence early and we'd have to scramble to defend against his attacks," said Josh Schwerin, an adviser to Priorities USA, a super PAC supporting Mr Biden.
"The reality is we've been able to run millions of dollars of thoroughly researched and tested ads, largely unanswered, and Trump's numbers in these states have been eroding badly."
The Trump campaign has said it will spend more than $1m (€920,000) over the next week on advertising across the country promoting the president's pandemic response.
But Mr Parscale has argued repeatedly that getting Mr Biden's unfavourable numbers up is key to winning the election, according to people who have heard his comments.
He has told other campaign advisers that positive ads do not do as much for the president's political fortunes as negative ads against Mr Biden, and that is why he wants to focus on anti-Biden ads, even as some advisers would prefer a different approach. (© Washington Post)