Among some conservative defenders of the president, there is a sense that complaints about masks and other mandates as a threat to personal freedom are overblown.

Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who lobbies for lower taxes and regulations and has served on the board of the National Rifle Association, said that using Mr. Cain’s death to attack Republicans “is going two steps too far.” But he added, “There’s a difference between not being excited about being told what to do” and refusing to do it altogether. “But on something like this, when you’re out in public, you should wear a mask because it’s not about you.”…

Evan McMullin, who ran against Mr. Trump as a third-party candidate in 2016, wrote on Twitter that Mr. Cain was “the first senior casualty of the science denial Trump cult.”

In an interview, Mr. McMullin said he had little hope this was a wake-up call. “I wish that was the case,” he said. “Many voters who support the president live in a totally different, alternate information environment in which the news of Herman Cain’s death — his visit to the Trump rally, his decision to not wear a mask — won’t reach them.”