WASHINGTON (CN) — In the run up to the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was tied with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for the lowest approval rating of any nominee in U.S. history, and new polling numbers out Wednesday indicate he might need to repeat an uphill climb to victory in order to win a second term in the Oval Office.
No Democrat currently in the race for the White House scores an unfavorable rating as high as Clinton and Trump’s three years ago (59%). Today, all of the Democratic candidates’ unfavorable ratings are at 39% or below, while Trump has a 57% unfavorable rating, according to the poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post.
The president took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to revile the poll, calling it “fake news.” Trump noted that 2016 polls by the same outlets predicted he would lose to Clinton.
The new poll measured Trump against five Democrat contenders: former vice president Joe Biden; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Biden pulled ahead of Trump by 15 points among registered voters — bolstered by support from women — but in each pair up Trump trails.
Up against Sanders, Trump falls behind by nine points among registered voters and 12 among all adults. The pattern continues down the line with Warren landing a seven-point lead over the president among registered voters and an 11-point lead among all adults, with almost mirror numbers for Harris at seven points among registered voters and 10 points among all adults.
The closest margin is between Trump and Buttigieg with 47% of voters favoring the South Bend mayor and 43% in favor of the president. Adults overall lean six points in Buttigieg’s direction.
Shortly before heading off to a 9/11 memorial event at the Pentagon, the president said in a string of three Tweets that the predictions were a “phony suppression poll.”
“In a hypothetical poll, done by one of the worst pollsters of them all, the Amazon Washington Post/ABC, which predicted I would lose to Crooked Hillary by 15 points (how did that work out?), Sleepy Joe, Pocahontas and virtually all others would beat me in the General Election,” Trump said.
Currently, 56% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s performance on the job while 38% approve.
Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said Trump is wrong to think the bullish stance he took on the 2016 campaign trail will generate the same results in 2020.
“It’s a particularly unhinged form of leadership which, again, when he was a candidate was kind of refreshing and frank to a lot of people. But it doesn’t work so well as president,” Kamarck said.
Reflecting back on the failure of President Jimmy Carter to win over the American people during his incumbent race, Kamarck said his humility as a candidate, which appealed to voters after Richard Nixon’s tenure, was not enough to carry Carter through to a second term.
“He seemed to stumble through his term as president and didn’t seem like a strong leader to people. And he got beat … So when you look at one-termers they have often suffered from the disjuncture between their candidacy and their performance in office,” Kamarck said.
The favorable shift toward Democratic candidates, who all but Biden trailed behind Trump in July polls, corresponds with a slump in the president’s approval rating, down six points since July.
Kamarck said the trend reflects what she characterized as a “very bad summer” for the president that began with attacks on four congresswomen of color and ended with his false claims about the trajectory of Hurricane Dorian.
The key to Biden maintaining his position as the front-runner, Kamarck said, has been that the former vice president has honed in on the failures of his would-be opponent.
“A lot of Biden’s strength in the race is he keeps the focus on Trump. And that is very, very important because presidential elections are about incumbents,” Kamarck said.
The Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris and Buttigieg campaigns and the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.