President Donald Trump faces an uphill climb to re-election in 2020 against a slate of prominent potential Democratic hopefuls, according to new polling from CNN conducted by SSRS.
In a series of hypothetical 2020 one-on-one contests Trump trails Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by a 55% to 42% margin among registered voters. He lags further behind former Vice President Joe Biden by a wide 57% to 40% split, and trails television personality Oprah Winfrey by a 51% to 42% divide.
The potential broad margins for the Democratic 2020 matchups are shaped by winning over some core groups that cast ballots for Trump in 2016, including white women and whites with a college degree. Trump leads among whites without a degree, though it’s cut to just one-third of his gaping 2016 margin. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2 percentage points in 2016 but lost in the Electoral College.
Still, polling this far ahead of an election fails to fully reflect the realities of a campaign — namely, the focused negative messaging that the sitting President currently faces. Trump launched his 2020 bid with federal election officials on the day of his inauguration, allowing him to raise money and hold events for his re-election campaign since he entered the White House.
A majority of Americans, 57%, say they have a favorable view of Sanders — essentially unchanged since he bowed out of the Democratic presidential primary in 2016. A similar 58% say they have a favorable view of Biden, up from the 51% favorable rating he had when he was last considering a run in October 2015. More Americans, 64%, say they have a favorable view of Winfrey.
The three candidates have nearly identical favorable ratings among the Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who will make up the potential electorate for Democratic primaries and caucuses: Sanders has an 82% favorable rating among this group, Biden also has 82% and Winfrey has 83%.
Women voters are key to Democrats’ potential success in 2020. The numbers show all three potential Democratic hopefuls winning white women by massive double-digit margins: Winfrey by 14 points, Sanders by 17 points and Biden by 23 points. Trump defeated Clinton by 9 points with this group in the 2016 presidential election, according to CNN exit polls. Among all women, those margins grow to a whopping 29 points for Winfrey, 30 points for Sanders and 36 points for Biden.
Both Republicans and Democrats remain virtually united around their candidate regardless of who’s running, though Winfrey consolidates slightly less support from Democrats than Biden and Sanders. Among independents, Biden leads by 15 points, Sanders by 10 and Winfrey by 4.
Neither Sanders, 76, and Biden, 75, has ruled out a presidential bid in 2020. After Oprah’s compelling speech at the Golden Globe awards raised speculation about her potential future political aspirations, Trump told reporters: “Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah … I like Oprah. I don’t think she’s going to run.” Two sources later told CNN she was “actively thinking” about running for the White House.
The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS January 14-18 among a random national sample of 918 registered voters reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. No interviewing was completed on January 16 due to weather conditions at call center locations. Results for all registered voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.