President TrumpDonald TrumpMark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race Judge lays out schedule for Eastman to speed up records processing for Jan. 6 panel Michael Avenatti cross-examines Stormy Daniels in his own fraud trial MORE said during a radio interview Tuesday that "George Washington would have had a hard time beating" him in a presidential match-up pre-pandemic.
"I don’t know if you’ve seen, the polls have been going up like a rocket ship. George Washington would have had a hard time beating me before the plague came in, before the China plague. And then, you know, like every other nation, like other countries, when you get hit, it affects you, and we went down a little bit," Trump told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.
Trump has repeatedly blamed China for his sagging poll numbers, even as many Americans say in surveys that they're displeased with the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The president's approval in the RealClearPolitics index of polls stood at 47.3 percent on March 31, in the early weeks of the pandemic-related shutdowns.
By early July, the index had dropped to 41.1 percent. It was at 43 percent as of Tuesday morning.
Trump trails presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCourt nixes offshore drilling leases auctioned by Biden administration Laquan McDonald's family pushes for federal charges against officer ahead of early release Biden speaks with Ukrainian president amid Russian threat MORE by 7.2 points in the RealClearPolitics average. The former vice president led by more than 10 points in the same average in late June.
In Trump's wide-ranging interview with Hewitt on Salem Radio Networks, he called former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Armageddon elections to come Poll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The politics of 'mind control' MORE "smart," while disparaging Biden.
"If [Biden] goes and debates, if he said 'Yes, I had a wonderful breakfast, thank you for asking the question,' they’ll give him, they’ll say it was one of the greatest answers in history. So you know, I know what I’m up against, and I had a smaller dose of it with Hillary. But Hillary was smart. Joe was never smart. Joe wasn’t smart in prime time," Trump said.
The Biden campaign has agreed to three debates in October, with the Commission on Presidential Debates rejecting a call from the Trump campaign to add a fourth.