- REUTERS/Randall Hill
Over the past month of the presidential campaign, we’ve seen more surprises (Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Bernie Sanders). And we’ve seen our first exits from the race.
Meanwhile, a group of self-proclaimed political outsiders continues to shake up the races in both parties.
With just more than 400 days until the 2016 election, here’s another look at who has the best chance of making it to the White House to succeed President Barack Obama.
Our rankings are based on the Real Clear Politics averages of national polls and those in the first-voting states of New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina. We also factor in candidates’ fundraising prowess and their momentum (or lack thereof) over the past few weeks, especially after the second Republican presidential debate earlier this month.
Here’s a look at where all the candidates stand.
17. Rick Santorum, Republican, former senator from Pennsylvania
- Thomson Reuters
It’s easy to forget that Santorum won 11 states in his 2012 primary matchup with Mitt Romney, the eventual Republican nominee – including the Iowa caucus.
That’s because so far – even though he is the first candidate to crisscross all of Iowa’s 99 counties this time – he hasn’t been even a blip on the radar in the 2016 race.
He is facing much stauncher competition this time around, and he has not solved his biggest problem from 2012: money. He raised just over $600,000 in the latest fundraising quarter, the kind of money that doesn’t bode well for staying power in a crowded field.
The state that provided his biggest win in 2012, Iowa, also hasn’t given him the same kind of love. Despite focusing on the Hawkeye State, he still barely registers in polling there.
National polling average among Republican voters: 0.6% (11th) Iowa: 1.5% (11th) New Hampshire: 0.3% (T-13th) South Carolina: N/A
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 18
16. Bobby Jindal, Republican, Louisiana governor
- REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Jindal not too long ago was one of the GOP’s rising stars. But his stock both nationally and in his home state of Louisiana has plummeted over the past few years, as his state has fallen into financial disarray.
The result is what’s showing up in polls: He has yet to be able to break out of the bottom of the GOP pack – even with a furious line of attack against front-runner Donald Trump.
Jindal and allied groups did raise $9 million in the most recent quarter, but he has missed out on both prime-time Republican debates.
National polling average among Republican voters: 0.4% (T-13th) Iowa: 3% (9th) New Hampshire: 0.1% (14th) South Carolina: 0.7% (12th)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 17
15. Lindsey Graham, Republican, senator from South Carolina
Graham was the clear winner of the “kid’s table” debate in September, but he has so far been unable to build any quantifiable momentum off it.
Graham is one of the more interesting candidates in the GOP field, but he is loathed by a segment of the party’s base.
He supports immigration reform more than any other member of the field and spars with Donald Trump’s comments on immigration. But far more voters, as polls have shown, have instead rallied around Trump.
Graham is still barely registering in polls nationally and in the first two voting states. He has to hope his home state of South Carolina will rally around him for a shocker in the third contest early next year – if he stays around that long.
National polling average among Republican voters: 0.1% (14th) Iowa: 0.3% (14th) New Hampshire: 1% (10th) South Carolina: 4% (7th)
STOCK: Rising Last month: 19
14. Martin O’Malley, Democrat, former Maryland governor
O’Malley has watched as Bernie Sanders has rapidly become the progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton, outflanking O’Malley’s attempt to outflank Clinton from the left.
He is still not well known nationally, and he has not been able to get his poll numbers up much since entering the race at the end of May.
Of course, as his campaign team will constantly point out, O’Malley has an extremely accomplished record as governor, with achievements – on immigration, criminal justice, gay marriage, and healthcare, among others – that he can legitimately flout to progressive voters.
But he hasn’t been able to break out of the doldrums. O’Malley has to hope, at some point, that Sanders implodes and more progressive types in the base rally around him. A Joe Biden entry into the race would further complicate his picture.
National polling average among Democratic voters: 0.8% (T-4th) Iowa: 3.8% (4th) New Hampshire: 1.4% (4th) South Carolina: 1% (5th)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 16
13. Chris Christie, Republican, New Jersey governor
- Thomson Reuters
Christie put in a solid performance in the second prime-time Republican presidential debate, as one poll put him fourth among the debate’s “winners.”
But Christie, whose national status has been in decline for the past 18 months, has failed to build much momentum in the first three months of his campaign.
He does seem to have a clear plan, based on his frequent visits north: He is banking on a win in New Hampshire to jump-start his run to the nomination.
But therein lies a problem: He’s just ninth in the Granite State, according to a recent average of polls there. And a lot of similar candidates, including Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich, are investing significant resources there.
Christie’s problems in his home state of New Jersey have been well documented, but they show no signs of abating. And he has a bit of a donor problem, too, though a super PAC supporting his run raised about $11 million in the latest fundraising quarter.
National polling average among Republican voters: 3.4% (8th) Iowa: 1.3% (12th) New Hampshire: 3% (9th)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 14
12. Mike Huckabee, Republican, former Arkansas governor
Huckabee has continued an attempt to endear himself to conservative, evangelical voters. He participated, for example, in a rally for Kim Davis, the embattled Kentucky county clerk. But there has been virtually no movement in his poll standing over the past month.
The debate earlier this month continued his inability to garner much buzz in his over four months on the campaign trail. And the first part of his plan – win Iowa – is in serious limbo: He polls just seventh in the Hawkeye State.
This Republican field may be too crowded for a candidate like Huckabee. He is extremely popular with evangelical conservatives, but many of those conservatives look as if they’re flocking to candidates such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.
National polling average among Republican voters: 3.2% (9th) Iowa: 4.3% (7th) New Hampshire: 0.7% (11th) South Carolina: 3% (9th)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 13
11. Rand Paul, Republican, 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 few months.
Two of his political allies were indicted in a campaign finance fraud scheme in the summer. Paul has been plunging in polls over the past two months, and he did nothing to help his cause in the first two Republican debates.
Of particular note is his drop in Iowa, where he has fallen from second (9.8%) in July to eighth now (2.4%).
National polling average among Republican voters: 2.4% (10th) Iowa: 3.8% (8th) New Hampshire: 3.7% (8th) South Carolina: 2.3% (10th)
STOCK: Falling Last month: 11
10. Bernie Sanders, Democrat, senator from Vermont
- Jason Miczek
Sanders continues to make inroads against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, and he now holds a comfortable lead against her in New Hampshire. It’s part of a stunning rise that has fueled doubts about Clinton’s candidacy.
There are questions about whether he’s a legitimate threat in the long haul, though, as well as questions about his viability as a potential nominee in a general election.
But Sanders’ campaign alone raised $15 million in the most recent fundraising quarter, more than any Republican presidential candidate. His momentum, and the grassroots support and donations behind it, have evoked comparisons to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s rise in 2008.
Sanders may not have the clout to win a nomination, but he continues to put himself in prime position to influence the Democratic debate.
National polling average among Democratic voters: 27.6% (2nd) Iowa: 33.3% (2nd) New Hampshire: 43.4% (1st) South Carolina: 16% (3rd)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 10
9. John Kasich, Republican, Ohio governor
Kasich was one of the biggest winners of the first prime-time Republican debate in August. His performance in this month’s second debate was less memorable, but he continues to make inroads as a candidate.
He remains in strong position in New Hampshire, where he has become a prime establishment candidate to win the state and grab key early momentum.
Those who talk up Kasich believe he is a Chris Christie type without the baggage of the past year and a half – that is, a successful governor with a record to point to and clear bipartisan appeal. He also has a plethora of experience from serving nearly two decades in Congress, including foreign-policy areas and his time as chair of the House Budget Committee.
It remains to be seen whether that same bipartisan brand could hurt Kasich with the GOP base. He is to the left of most GOP candidates on immigration reform, and he expanded the federal Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act – two issues that could doom him with conservatives.
And he hasn’t yet caught on nationally – he’s just seventh overall in an average of national Republican voters.
National polling average among Republican voters: 3.6% (7th) Iowa: 2.8% (10th) New Hampshire: 9% (4th) South Carolina: 3.7% (8th)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 9
8. Ted Cruz, Republican, senator from Texas
Bloomberg’s Al Hunt wrote last month that Cruz may be the most underestimated candidate in the race, carefully laying out a brilliant campaign strategy for the long haul.
Cruz remains in the middle of the GOP pack polling-wise, but his eye-popping fundraising numbers mean he will be a factor for a while.
The senator and allied super PACs raised more than $50 million in the most recent quarter to support his presidential bid, a number that put him behind only Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush (though Cruz did announce his candidacy before any other major candidate).
Cruz inspires a flood of enthusiasm among the GOP base, and he may be the best-positioned candidate from within the political sphere to back up the notion that he’s not a typical politician – that he is the outsider the base wants despite his day job in Washington.
National polling average among Republican voters: 6.2% (6th) Iowa: 7.8% (3rd) New Hampshire: 6% (6th) South Carolina: 5.7% (4th)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 7
7. Joe Biden, Democrat, vice president of the United States
- REUTERS/Jim Young
Biden would have an uphill battle if he were to enter the race, which is becoming an increasingly likely proposition. But the past month has only boosted his stock as a potential candidate.
Lingering concerns over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, plus Biden’s perceived legitimacy over Bernie Sanders as a potential nominee, would quickly vault him into the forefront of a hotly contested primary. (Keep in mind that the poll numbers below are from his being a theoretical candidate – he will most likely see a boost if he officially enters the race.)
Biden is also polling better against top Republican candidates than Clinton and Sanders, and a poll out Monday showed he could enter the race as the most popular candidate in the field.
His biggest problems entering so late would be formidable: He would have to raise a significant amount of money to compete with Clinton, and he would have to scramble to put together a campaign organization.
National polling average among Democratic voters: 20% (3rd) Iowa: 14.8% (3rd) New Hampshire: 13.2% (3rd) South Carolina: 23% (2nd)
STOCK: Rising Last month: 11
6. Carly Fiorina, Republican, former Hewlett-Packard CEO
Fiorina has jumped eight spots in our power rankings over the past two months – and with good reason.
A little more than a month after she stole the show with a stunning performance during the lower-tier Republican debate in August, she took it to the other candidates on the main stage earlier this month and produced another stellar debate performance.
As a result, she has continued to surge in national polls as well as in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Her debate performances have cemented a candidacy that had gained a reliable following among the Republican base since her announcement, as she consistently drew some of the most head-nodding crowds at large GOP summits.
She has experience as an executive that few others in the field can point to, and she has been one of Hillary Clinton’s fiercest critics. But she will face a significant test in her newfound position as one of the GOP’s top-tier candidates, as she is under increased scrutiny over her rocky record at HP and her day-to-day activities on the campaign trail.
National polling average among Republican voters: 11.6% (3rd) Iowa: 6.8% (4th) New Hampshire: 11.3% (3rd) South Carolina: 4.3% (T-5th)
STOCK: Rising Last month: 9
5. Jeb Bush, Republican, former Florida governor
- REUTERS/Brian Snyder
October could be a significant month for Bush’s presidential candidacy.
Already, donors are sending warning signals that he needs to show growth as a candidate or face potential defections. Bush has not yet proved formidable as the front-runner for the nomination that many political observers assumed he would be.
He has seen Donald Trump sap the momentum he had built after his official campaign announcement in June. He’s had two middle-of-the-pack performances in the GOP debates. All of it has led to slumping poll numbers across the board – his 17% national average in July has dipped almost 8 points over the past two months.
Bush has showed, however, that he is a dynamite fundraiser, as his campaign and allied groups combined raised more than $114 million in the most recent quarter.
National polling average among Republican voters: 9.2% (5th) Iowa: 5.3% (6th) New Hampshire: 7.7% (5th) South Carolina: 6.7% (3rd)
STOCK: Falling Last month: 3
4. Marco Rubio, Republican, senator from Florida
- REUTERS/Chris Keane
Rubio is quickly becoming the establishment favorite for the Republican nomination.
He’s a younger alternative in the Republican crowd, and he counts supporters among both the establishment and the more conservative GOP base. He has had strong performances in both prime-time GOP debates – particularly in the September affair, after which he and Carly Fiorina have surged.
He and Fiorina have also recently become the only candidates to successfully engage in back-and-forth attacks with Donald Trump.
And Rubio and allied outside groups raised a combined $43.8 million in the latest quarter, so he clearly has the donor support to stick around for the long haul.
National polling average among Republican voters: 9.6% (4th) Iowa: 5.8% (5th) New Hampshire: 5% (7th) South Carolina: 4.3% (T-5th)
STOCK: Rising Last month: 6
3. Ben Carson, Republican, retired neurosurgeon
One of the biggest risers continues to be Carson, who has seen his support double since July in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
Like Trump, Carson is a Washington outsider who has shown he can appeal to a broader electorate – though almost no one inside the Beltway believes that he is a serious contender for the nomination.
Carson has also shown some fundraising prowess – he and allied groups raised $8.3 million in the most recent fundraising quarter, behind the combined totals of just six other GOP candidates.
Indeed, even some of the more controversial things to come out of Carson’s mouth – such as his recent comments about Muslims – have only helped boost his fundraising numbers.
National polling average among Republican voters: 17% (2nd) Iowa: 21.3% (2nd) New Hampshire: 14.3% (2nd) South Carolina: 19% (2nd)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 3
2. Donald Trump, Republican, businessman
- REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Trump has lit the political world on fire since his entry into the race early this summer. And he has showed surprising staying power – even if his numbers are starting to show signs of plateauing.
There’s a clear appetite among Republican primary voters for someone like Trump, whose claims about illegal immigration have again inflamed the debate over immigration reform. And with his claim that he is worth more than $10 billion, he will not be pressed for funds. He said he was willing to spend $100 million of his own fortune for the nomination.
The next month could be crucial for Trump. With a media narrative forming around his poll numbers leveling off and his audience sizes decreasing somewhat, does that narrative take hold? Or does the Trump train keep gaining steam?
National polling average among Republican voters: 23.4% (1st) Iowa: 27.3% (1st) New Hampshire: 25.3% (1st) South Carolina: 34.3% (1st)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 2
1. Hillary Clinton, Democrat, former secretary of state
Clinton is No. 1 here because she has proved formidable in both polling and fundraising – and she still looks to have a relatively easy path to the Democratic nomination, despite continued controversy over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
But the summer has provided sign after sign of her potential vulnerabilities as a candidate. She has seen Sanders sap enthusiasm – and supporters – in key early states like Iowa and, especially, New Hampshire. Her popularity has plunged. And she trails a host of leading Republican candidates.
Clinton has, however, cleaned up on the fundraising circuit. And she has taken a new approach to her candidacy over the past several weeks, giving interviews, telling jokes on late-night appearances, and taking stands on issues she had long avoided.
Overall, Clinton is a shaky No. 1 at this point. But she still has the easiest path to the nomination. If Biden does decide to run, that path will become much more difficult.
National polling average among Democratic voters: 40.8% (1st) Iowa: 38.5% (1st) New Hampshire: 31.8% (2nd) South Carolina: 50% (1st)
STOCK: Neutral Last month: 1
And to the polls … here’s a look at where the candidates stand in their respective parties in a combined average of national, New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina polls.
- Andy Kiersz/Business Insider
One of the candidates is not like the others …
- Thomson Reuters