Analysis: Who's Really Leading the Presidential Race Now?

(Photo: REUTERS/Darren Hauck)Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Governor John Kasich, former Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, businessman Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and U.S. Rep. Rand Paul pose during a photo opportunity before the debate held by Fox Business Network for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 10, 2015.

In August, I wrote that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were leading the presidential race among Republicans, and Hillary Clinton was leading among Democrats. Who is leading now?

The real leaders in the race are not necessarily those leading in the "who would you vote for if the election were held tomorrow?" question. (Because the election will not be held tomorrow.)

Rather, the candidates with the best chance to run a successful campaign are those with a broad base of support in their party, money and a large base of devoted supporters. For this reason, my analysis of who is really leading the race is based upon three measures: favorability, fundraising and number of donors.

Here are those measures updated.

1. Favorability

Using Monmouth University polls (Republicans here and Democrats here), I gave the candidates a score between -100 to 100 based upon their favorability versus unfavorability among the voters who had an opinion. For the Republicans, Monmouth only had scores for the top six candidates. (Here is the formula: (favorability – unfavorability)/(100 – "no opinion")*100.)

In order from best to worst, here are the scores:

Ben Carson 70
Marco Rubio 51
Ted Cruz 36
Carly Fiorina 35
Donald Trump 22
Jeb Bush -9
Bernie Sanders 68
Hillary Clinton 63
Martin O'Malley 15

2. Cash on Hand

While the August analysis looked at overall fundraising, this time let's look at the combined cash on hand for the campaign and outside groups. That will show how much money they have left to mount a successful campaign. (Data available at

Here are those numbers:

Jeb Bush 108,046,300
Ted Cruz 50,940,587
Marco Rubio 27,208,467
Chris Christie 12,779,044
Ben Carson 12,271,845
Carly Fiorina 7,510,740
Rand Paul 6,416,328
Lindsey Graham 4,201,046
Mike Huckabee 4,030,885
John Kasich 567,822
George Pataki 80,945
Jim Gilmore 54,263
Donald Trump -35,570
Rick Santorum -219,002
Hillary Clinton 47,934,068
Bernie Sanders 27,018,124
Martin O'Malley 786,131

3. Number of Donors

And last, to measure whether the candidates have a base of strong supporters they can rely upon, here are the total number of donors along with the percentage of campaign funds that came from small donations (data not available for Christie, Kasich and Gilmore).


Ben Carson 23,493 63
Ted Cruz 21,141 42
Marco Rubio 11,709 21
Jeb Bush 11,368 5
Rand Paul 6,647 48
Carly Fiorina 5,537 47
Donald Trump 1,698 48
Lindsey Graham 1,671 4
Mike Huckabee 1,624 40
Rick Santorum 537 21
George Pataki 192 6


Hillary Clinton 36,390 17
Bernie Sanders 26,032 74
Martin O'Malley 1,788 7