WASHINGTON • Mrs Hillary Clinton is trying to draw a sharper contrast with Mr Donald Trump, even as a new Washington Post/ABC News survey found the presidential front runners in "a virtual dead heat" among registered voters.
The poll found that 46 per cent of registered voters favour Mr Trump and 44 per cent support Mrs Clinton. That amounts to an 11-point shift in the Republican's favour since March.
Mrs Clinton's net negative rating among registered voters was a minus 16, virtually the same as Mr Trump's minus 17, with his negatives significantly higher among all adults.
Never in the poll's history, the Post said, had two major party nominees been viewed as harshly, with nearly six in 10 voters holding negative impressions of both candidates.
That underscored a growing sense of urgency in the Clinton campaign to define her both more clearly and positively - a task made harder by her inability to shake off her tenacious Democratic rival, Mr Bernie Sanders.
The poll gave Mr Sanders the most positive ratings of the three, with a net positive of 8 points among registered voters.
Mrs Clinton, in an appearance on NBC on Sunday, challenged Mr Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, suggesting that "he seems to be particularly focused on making himself appear great". The former secretary of state said her campaign would be "demonstrating the hollowness of his rhetoric, and the danger of a lot of what he has said".
Asked to sum up her own message, Mrs Clinton said: "We're stronger together."
She said Americans needed to unify and work together to improve the economy: "We're stronger together when we have a bipartisan, even nonpartisan foreign policy that protects our country. And that provides the kind of steady, strong, smart leadership that the rest of the world expects."
But the new poll seemed to show that if Americans are united about anything, it is in their dissatisfaction with the leading candidates.
What is shaping up to be the nastiest American presidential campaign in recent memory is beginning with voters expressing historically deep and practically identical levels of discomfort with both Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton.
This has shaken up some in the Democratic camp, who assumed Mr Trump would be an easy target, and it has provided encouragement to Mr Sanders, the Vermont senator who trails Mrs Clinton but keeps winning primaries.
Appearing on Sunday talk shows, Mr Sanders pleaded with the hundreds of the party's so-called superdelegates who support Mrs Clinton to reconsider their allegiance ahead of the Democratic nominating convention in late July.