(CN) – Joe Biden’s pitch to the American electorate is that he is the most pragmatic choice to beat President Donald Trump in 2020. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday bolsters that argument, with respondents favoring the former vice president over the current occupant of the White House 42% to 35%.
“I’ve done very well in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and states like Minnesota, Colorado, Virginia,” Biden said in Iowa on Wednesday. “That’s been the source of my support.”
Jill Biden, campaigning in New England on behalf of her husband, also made an appeal to his electability as the reason he should be nominated by the Democratic party.
“I know that not all of you are committed to my husband, and I respect that,” she said in New Hampshire on Monday. “But I want you to think about your candidate, his or her electability, and who’s going to win this race.”
Biden isn’t the only Democratic candidate that could beat Trump in a runoff, as the poll showed Bernie Sanders beating Trump by five points. The other five Democrats in the poll – Pete Buittigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker – all trailed or tied with Trump in head-to-head matchups.
However, all five candidates have lower profiles than Biden and Sanders, who ran for president last time around.
Booker took a shot at the notion of electability at a separate campaign stop in Iowa on Wednesday.
“Can’t we have bigger aspirations than that?” he asked. “Beating Donald Trump is the floor, not the ceiling.”
While Biden can take comfort in front-runner status for now, should he slip in the polls the central argument for his nomination vanishes. Other candidates can take solace in the fact that the percentage of respondents committing to voting for Trump is either 35% or 36% in each head-to-head matchup, demonstrating the pervading unpopularity of the president.
For instance, Booker and O’Rourke each received 28% in the poll, but Trump’s numbers went unchanged at 35%. The difference between Biden and the two other candidates was the number of people who expressed no opinion, indicating a lack of awareness about Booker and O’Rourke rather than any overriding preference for the president when compared with different candidates.
Trump’s approval rating continues to hover in the low 40s, at 42% in the latest poll. That’s smaller than the percentage of respondents who strongly disapprove of his job performance (43%).
Another troubling development for the president is the dwindling support for his handling of the economy, after the Dow plunged last week and volatility has crept into the marketplace.
Only 48% of respondents said they approved of how Trump was handling the economy, while 43% said they disapproved.
More respondents favored free trade (38%) than protectionist tariffs (29%) in the poll, a signal of weak support for one of Trump’s signature economic issues.
The poll was conducted between Aug. 16-18 and sampled 1,998 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.