KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. - In the final throes of an increasingly daunting reelection campaign, President Donald Trump is revving up his rally schedule and whipping his supporters into a frenzy with the type of nonstop outrage that helped make him the most polarizing political figure of his time.
He suggested the governor of Michigan, already the target of an alleged kidnapping plot, should be jailed. He expressed indifference to the shooting of a former Arizona congresswoman. He blasted the nation's top infectious disease expert as "a disaster." He baselessly called former Vice President Joe Biden a "criminal," and urged his attorney general to investigate him.
To Trump, turning the volume up to 11 is an instinct, and a near guarantee he will be the center of attention. But to the rest of the country, particularly voters he needs to close a 10-percentage-point polling gap, there is growing evidence of exhaustion that may cost him crucial votes.
"The childish personality lost its humor when - I don't know - just about a year or two and it like became real and you're like, 'Oh my gosh,'" said Josh Peterson, a 24-year-old surfboard builder from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, who didn't vote in the last election but now plans to vote for Biden in a swing state that could determine the presidency.
His initial amusement over Trump's election four years ago, he said, disappeared in wave after wave of chaos, controversy and cartoonish behavior. "The humor wore off as it became like more real and like, 'This is who we are to the outside world.'"
Even for those retreating to this sandy escape on the state's Outer Banks during the pandemic, there is little refuge from the daily assault of headache-inducing political news that has overwhelmed many American homes since 2016.
Judy Jones, a retired social worker from Clayton, is volunteering for Biden through her local Democratic Party, partly driven by her sense of fatigue with Trump.
"You'd wake up in the morning - 'What has he done today?' You know, are we going to blow up today?" she said. "We just want to wake up and go. 'OK, there's someone decent with integrity running this country.'"
Shirley Bruce, a 64-year-old homemaker from Charlotte, visibly recoiled when asked about Trump's public persona. "This whole table is throwing up behind our masks," she said as she sat with her relatives outside a coffee shop.
According to a Pew Research survey released Monday, overall interest in the election has increased with 75% of Americans following it "very closely." But 61% say they're worn out by all the coverage.