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

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. | (Photo: REUTERS/Darren Hauck)

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 Carson70
Marco Rubio51
Ted Cruz36
Carly Fiorina35
Donald Trump22
Jeb Bush-9
Bernie Sanders68
Hillary Clinton63
Martin O'Malley15

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 Bush108,046,300
Ted Cruz50,940,587
Marco Rubio27,208,467
Chris Christie12,779,044
Ben Carson12,271,845
Carly Fiorina7,510,740
Rand Paul6,416,328
Lindsey Graham4,201,046
Mike Huckabee4,030,885
John Kasich567,822
George Pataki80,945
Jim Gilmore54,263
Donald Trump-35,570
Rick Santorum-219,002
Hillary Clinton47,934,068
Bernie Sanders27,018,124
Martin O'Malley786,131

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 Carson23,49363
Ted Cruz21,14142
Marco Rubio11,70921
Jeb Bush11,3685
Rand Paul6,64748
Carly Fiorina5,53747
Donald Trump1,69848
Lindsey Graham1,6714
Mike Huckabee1,62440
Rick Santorum53721
George Pataki1926


Hillary Clinton36,39017
Bernie Sanders26,03274
Martin O'Malley1,7887

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