The top 11 Republican presidential candidates are set to square off Wednesday night in the second GOP debate of the campaign.
With less than 420 days until the election, we took a look at where the GOP’s top contenders stand heading into the debate.
Our rankings are based on the Real Clear Politics averages of national polls and those in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina – the three first voting states. We also factored in candidates’ momentum (or lack thereof) over the past few weeks.
Here’s a look at where all the candidates stand.
11. Chris Christie, New Jersey governor
Christie is lucky – if CNN used the same methodology as Fox News did for its first debate, he’d be off the main stage. Instead, he’s just barely here, mired in 11th place in an average of six recent Real Clear Politics national polls.
Christie did nothing to help his cause in the first Republican presidential debate, and he has failed to build any type of momentum in the first two-plus months of his campaign. His strategy of investing time, effort, and money into New Hampshire is also in flux – he’s placing eighth in the Granite State.
National polling average among Republican voters: 1.5% (11th) Iowa: 1.3% (11th) New Hampshire: 3% (T-8th) South Carolina 1.7% (11th)
10. Rand Paul, US senator from Kentucky
Paul is the unconventional candidate of the Republican field. But he has so far been unable to latch on and break through as a clear, top-tier candidate. And his problems have only been exacerbated over the past several weeks.
Two of his political allies were indicted in a campaign finance fraud scheme. And Paul has been plunging in polls both before and after the first Republican debate, in which he did nothing to help his cause.
He needs a strong performance Wednesday night.
National polling average among Republican voters: 3.3% (T-7th) Iowa: 3.7% (T-8th) New Hampshire: 5% (7th) South Carolina: 2.3% (10th)
9. Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor
Huckabee has had quite the last week, advancing his cause with religious and more conservative Republican voters by appearing alongside Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who had been jailed for her refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But he has been unable to break through in the polls, and a key part of his early-state strategy isn’t panning out like he might have expected. He’s polling just eighth in Iowa, a state where he won the caucus in 2008.
National polling average among Republican voters: 4.5% (6th) Iowa: 3.7% (T-8th) New Hampshire: 1.3% (11th) South Carolina: 3% (9th)
8. Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor
- REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
There’s perhaps no bigger summer loser than Walker, who has plunged in polls amid a sleepy first debate performance and constant waffling on the campaign trail.
Donors are reportedly getting nervous and impatient, meaning Wednesday night could be make or break for Walker.
He has lost momentum – and supporters – to Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and he is flailing in recent polling in Iowa, the first-voting state that is becoming increasingly important to his path to the nomination.
National polling average among Republican voters: 3% (9th) Iowa: 4.3% (7th) New Hampshire: 3% (T-8th) South Carolina: 3.3% (8th)
7. Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO
Fiorina was perhaps the biggest winner of the first pair of debates. Off a strong performance in the early “happy hour,” lower-tier debate, she has surged in polls over the past month-plus. And she has now earned a spot on the main stage.
Fiorina has gained a reliable following among the Republican base since announcing her candidacy, constantly drawing some of the most enthusiastic and head-nodding crowds at large GOP summits.
She has experience as an executive that not many others in the field can point to, and she has been one of Hillary Clinton’s fiercest critics. Wednesday will serve as an important test as to whether she can solidify herself as a top-tier candidate.
National polling average among Republican voters: 3.3% (T-7th) Iowa: 4.7% (6th) New Hampshire: 7% (T-4th) South Carolina: 4.3% (T-5th)
6. John Kasich, Ohio governor
Kasich was the other big winner from last month’s debate, and he has established himself as a top-10 candidate after barely making the main stage last time.
He is surging in polls in New Hampshire, where he is rapidly becoming a threat to capture the state from former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and grab key early momentum.
The challenge for Kasich: He hasn’t yet been able to expand that surge nationally or in other states. Wednesday night will again be an important moment for him, as he continues to introduce himself to a national audience.
“While we are still in the introductory stage, this debate offers another opportunity for Americans to meet Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is presidential in tone and conduct and also has the exclusive conservative policy depth on domestic and national security issues,” John Weaver, a top strategist to Kasich, told Business Insider.
“He is prepared to build upon his positive performance in Cleveland and to stand out again on a crowded stage, despite what could be desperate chaos around him.”
National polling average among Republican voters: 2.5% (10th) Iowa: 3% (10th) New Hampshire: 10.7% (3rd) South Carolina: 3.7% (7th)
5. Ted Cruz, US senator from Texas
Cruz impressed with his debate performance, and has jumped slightly in polling over the last month.
Cruz inspires a flood of enthusiasm among the GOP base, and he may be the best-positioned candidate in elected office to back up the notion that he’s not a typical politician – that he is the outsider the base wants, if true “outsider” candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson implode.
Cruz’s first-quarter fundraising numbers mean he’ll likely be in the mix for a while. And though the debate is important for him, he might have a more important stage this month – the Senate floor, where he is pushing to de-fund the family-planning organization Planned Parenthood, even if it means shutting down the federal government.
National polling average among Republican voters: 6.8% (4th) Iowa: 7.7% (3rd) New Hampshire: 6% (6th) South Carolina: 5.7% (4th)
4. Marco Rubio, US senator from Florida
Rubio is one of the three Republicans who Hillary Clinton continually calls out by name – with good reason.
He’s a younger alternative in the Republican crowd, and he counts supporters among both the establishment and the more conservative GOP base. He had a solid performance in the first Republican debate, with lines and moments that resonated with the conservative Republican base.
Rubio and allied outside groups raised a combined $43.8 million in the first fundraising quarter, so he clearly has the donor support to stick around for the long haul. He’s mulling along in the middle of the pack polling-wise, but he’s one to watch for the long haul.
National polling average among Republican voters: 5.3% (5th) Iowa: 5% (T-4th) New Hampshire: 3% (T-8th) South Carolina: 4.3% (T-5th)
3. Jeb Bush, former Florida governor
- REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Bush hasn’t had a great last few weeks.
He has seen his numbers dip nationally and in key early states. He didn’t impress in the first Republican debate, and he’s been forced to spend much of his time on the campaign trail barbing with Donald Trump.
That said, Bush remains the most formidable fundraiser in the field. But he’ll need a better and a bit more combative performance Wednesday night to reassure anxious donors and prove he’s the front-runner many thought he’d be.
National polling average among Republican voters: 7.8% (3rd) Iowa: 5% (T-4th) New Hampshire: 7% (T-4th) South Carolina: 6.7% (3rd)
2. Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon
Carson has flown up from the middle of the pack to the clear No. 2 at this point in the Republican primary, and perhaps the main potential foil to Donald Trump.
He had perhaps the most memorable moment of the first debate, when he talked humorously about his experience as a surgeon. He has endeared himself to voters who want an outsider, but also who want their candidates more “nice.”
Carson has also shown some fundraising prowess – he and allied groups raised $8.3 million in the last quarter, behind the combined totals of just six other GOP candidates.
National polling average among Republican voters: 20% (2nd) Iowa: 22.7% (2nd) New Hampshire: 13.3% (2nd) South Carolina: 19% (2nd)
1. Donald Trump, real-estate magnate
The Trump steamroller continues power ahead.
A prominent feud with Fox News host and debate moderator Megyn Kelly did nothing to slow down Trump’s magnanimous rise, and he has only solidified his lead over the past month. His rivals now are planning to take him on directly Wednesday night.
There’s a new consensus – Trump is going to be around for a while.
“Seemingly nothing can bring him down,” said Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist at the Potomac Research Group. “It’s way too early to consider him the favorite to win the nomination. … ButTrumpis in for the long-haul, and has inflicted enormous damage on all the other GOP candidates.”
National polling average among Republican voters: 30.5% (1st) Iowa: 28.3% (1st) New Hampshire: 32% (1st) South Carolina: 34.3% (1st)
And to the polls … here’s a look at where each candidate stands in their respective parties in a combined average of national, New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina polls.
- Andy Kiersz/Business Insider
We’re not done with our current president, though. And he’s defending his record amid a lot of criticism from the other side…