He ordered states to reopen in the spring, only to extend national social distancing guidelines. He insisted he would have the Republican convention at full size, only to scrap much of the event. He suggested the election should be delayed, only to reverse course and declare it should actually be held early.

And, in recent weeks as parents, teachers and local officials debated how to teach America’s 50 million public school students this fall, he threatened to withhold federal aid from districts that failed to offer in-person learning. But instead of fighting the many districts that defied him, he scaled back his combative rhetoric and toned down his demands.

As America has battled the coronavirus for the past five months, Trump has fought everyone else as he pushed his own contentious plans — governors, mayors, lawmakers, judges, even his own administration officials — before later reversing course, backing away from his initial stance or simply moving on to the next issue and declaring victory. Sometimes, the people he’s fighting have confronted him. Other times, they refused to engage.