There is nothing a political media junky like myself enjoys more than a populist versus establishment primary contest. August media coverage strongly suggests that’s exactly what the 2016 presidential race is shaping up to be.  From a media rating perspective, with the exception of Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and Lindsey Graham, the entire pool of candidates increased their coverage in August, although at very different rates. With media attention shifting to the 2016 bid, there are now 5 candidates in the 90+ rating band — Trump, Clinton, Bush, Sanders, and Biden.  Besides the normal inter-candidate bashing and trash-talking everything Obama, much of media dialog focused on Trump’s surprising surge in the polls along with Clinton’s response to her use of private email during her tenure as Secretary of State.  There was also ample opportunity for all the candidates to address real issues, like immigration reform, tax reform, and the local effects of China’s economy.

2016 presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald Trump is now the #1 ranked candidate in the 2016 election media ratings war.  His uncensored anti-establishment and populist appeal are eclipsed only by the media’s insatiable appetite for everything and anything Trump.  He hasn’t failed to deliver the soundbites and bombastic commentary that has served to separate him from the largest GOP field in years.  Media and political analysts are having a field day trying to wrap a rationale around his recent ascent in the polls, but here at mediaQuant we’re more concerned with an accurate assessment of his current media position and the trajectory he’s on versus competing candidates.  

Trump is up +8 points at a extreme media rating of 98 — YES 98 out of 100 — moving him to the #1 rank position ahead of frontrunner Hillary Clinton (96).  For perspective, President Obama is currently at 98.  Trump is also showing solid rating numbers across all media segments, from traditional newspapers, magazines, and journals to leading-edge social networks, blogs, and search volumes.  The dollar media value created by Team Trump is at $214+ million for August, and his cumulative 12-month trailing media value is an amazing $458+ million.

2016 presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton managed to increase her media rating by +2 points to a very strong 96, but it wasn’t enough to hold on to her #1 rank. Clinton dropped -1 to the #2 rank in the sector, giving up the #1 slot to GOP poll-leader Donald Trump.  It is actually quite remarkable that Clinton was able to squeeze +2 points out of her already strong and sustained 94 rating.  Media coverage was still ebbing negative for Clinton as she continued to address — and attract — massive media coverage related to her using her private email during tenure as Secretary of State.  Not all of Clinton’s coverage was email-related as the candidate was all over the early primary states in her goal to cement the Democratic nomination.  And of course, the media loves a fight and Bernie Sanders took the media by storm this month as a viable alternative to Mrs. Clinton.  
2016 presidential candidate Jeb BushJeb Bush‘s coverage was almost entirely centered around comparisons, rebuttals, and defensive remarks to current GOP-frontrunner Donald Trump.  And while Rubio, Fiorina, Cruz, and others have rightly or wrongly decided to ignore The Donald, Jeb Bush has taken numerous political body-blows as Trump labeled Bush “the establishment” candidate.   The good media rating news for Bush is the in-your-face Trump attacks on Jeb have thrust him into the much-needed media spotlight.  Bush is up +19 points at a very strong 94 rating, pushing the former Florida Governor to the #3 rank position.  What Mr. Bush does with his new-found media prominence is up to his campaign team.  But Jeb can thank Trump for the media opportunity, although most of coverage has been on Donald Trump’s terms.
2016 presidential candidate Bernie SandersThe self-described socialist from Vermont bent on shaking up the defacto nomination of Hillary Clinton may actually do just that!  While Senator Bernie Sanders only picked up a couple of points going into August, the candidate left August with a huge +22 point rating increase that catapulted him to 92, just 4 points off Clinton’s 96.  The coverage quality was equally amazing, with few storylines focused on Trump/Clinton comparisons and rebuttals.  To the contrary, his campaign team funneled much of the coverage into issues and platform-defining stories, which is exactly what Sanders needed to break into the 90+ rating band. The strategy paid off, as Sanders pulled nearly 2/3 of his total 12-month media value in August, generating just shy of $20 million for the month.

While some media pundits have classified both Trump and Sanders as typical populist candidates, Sanders is really a populist in the classic sense.  The Vermont senator is an unapologetic and passionate advocate for issues that affect the lives of everyday Americans and seems to be getting the media attention that these topics deserve, and hasn’t lost any of his pension for denouncing the privileged and wealthy plutocrats that characterize the competing party’s roster of candidates.

2016 presidential candidate Joe BidenYes, we know, we know — Vice President Joe Biden has yet to formally announce his candidacy.  Apparently Joe is happy with his day job.  His pre-candidacy rating moved up +2 points, climbing into the rarefied rating realm of 90 points.  Despite this, he slid -1 position to #5 in the sector rankings due the strong August media gains by Trump, Sanders, and Bush.  With few exceptions, Biden’s August coverage was entirely a will-he/won’t-he enter the 2016 race story.  Ensuing coverage was colored with references to his relationship with the Clintons, his lobbying for large banks in his home state of Delaware, and whether he would draw more votes away from Hillary or Bernie when it comes to deciding the state-by-state primary winner. The media consensus is leaning towards Biden drawing most of his votes from Clinton, and few if any from the rabid Sanders fans.
2016 presidential candidate Marco RubioSenator Marco Rubio had a nice …  let me rephrase that, a GREAT media rebound in August.  The candidate is up +16 points at a strong 88 media rating and the #6 rank.  He’s in a natural position to overtake Christie given both candidates’ media momentum metrics.  There’s also increasing rumblings that Rubio might be the best-in-field running mate option for the other GOP frontrunners.  But Rubio isn’t counting himself out, not by a long shot.  As the media reported many times in August, Rubio is counting on his strong favorability numbers to pick up primary votes from voters whose candidates don’t make it out of the primaries.  Not a bad strategy when you think about it.  But will it get him the GOP nomination?  His ratings are consistently strong and his challenge will be to maintain or leverage his new-found media rating trajectory, and move into the 90+ rating band.
2016 presidential candidate Ben CarsonRetired John Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson is the amicable and consummate outsider with no ties to politics, government office, or even a reality TV show.  His numbers remain strong and for the August media cycle his candidacy achieved a 4-year media rating high of 87 points, up an amazing +18 points over the prior month. Carson also moved past a number of GOP and Democratic rivals,  up +14 positions to #7 in the rankings after the August media sweep — +1 point ahead of Rand Paul and in a dead-heat with John Kerry and Ted Cruz.  It appears that Carson is benefiting from the current media fascination with non-politician outsiders (Trump and Fiorina).  Carson is also garnering coverage for his continued attacks on Obama’s domestic and foreign agenda.  Media values are strong at $10 million for August, with a 12-month cumulative total of $21.5 million.  Ben Carson is not igniting any media fires in the high-end media outlets of late. 
2016 presidential candidate John KerryAnother non-candidate in the media mix, John Kerry is one of many possible VP running mates in the 2016 Presidential Contenders sector.  Not surprisingly, Kerry’s August media coverage was driven by coverage of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.  His media rating is up a marginal +1 point at 87.  Among the current candidate pool, Mr. Kerry lost -2 rank positions, going from #5 to #7, alongside Carson and Cruz.  The one time presidential hopeful still pulls his share of media ratings as Secretary of State for President Obama.
2016 presidential candidate Ted CruzTexas Senator Ted Cruz is finding the GOP field pretty crowded these days, and his relatively meagre +4 point increase in August points to a candidate who may be struggling for media attention.  You wouldn’t normally think a +4 point increase was shabby, until you look at the many double-digit increases across the sector.  Cruz is currently ranked #7 (tied with Carson and Kerry), with a solid rating of 87 points.  Coverage was broad and diverse and interestingly did not involve comparisons or rebuttals to Trump.  Cruz managed to avoid commentary on Trump’s recent rise to the top of the GOP polls this month.  The ability to stay “on topic” was challenging as the media was baiting every GOP hopeful to go head-to-head with Trump’s GOP bashing.  But Cruz stayed true to his conservative agenda in these early primary months and managed to hit a new rating high.  He lost a little ground to his rivals (-1 rank position), but the damage was minimal and he’s still quite visible and accessible to the media going into the next round of debates.
2016 presidential candidate Carly FiorinaOnly Bernie Sanders’ meteoric media rating rise outdid Carly Fiorina this month.  The former Hewlett-Packard CEO now presidential hopeful is up +21 points or +24 percent to 86, a 4-year high for the only female in the GOP race.  At 86 points, Fiorina is tied with Rand Paul in the sector ranking and just a point shy of Ben Carson, John Kerry, and Ted Cruz, three highly covered candidates from a media perspective.  The dominant coverage points were her stellar debate performance and the subsequent media follow-up.  The media crowned her the “winner” of the first GOP debate and Fiorina was rewarded with a sizeable rating boost versus her rivals.
2016 presidential candidate Rand PaulIt just wasn’t a good media month for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. The GOP candidate slipped -4 positions to #10 in the sector rankings and showed one of the smaller rating upticks compared with his rivals, up +3 points to 86.  The media attacked his debate performance.  And to make matters worse, a former campaign manager for his father who is now running the largest Super PAC supporting Rand Paul’s candidacy, is under indictment for concealing pay-for-support payments to an Iowa senator.  Although the indictment relates to his father’s presidential bid in 2012, the Super PAC manager under indictment is a Rand family member and currently in charge of much of the money flowing into Paul’s election coffers.  
2016 presidential candidate Scott WalkerPlease, someone tell me that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s +3 point increase to 84 in August was not entirely due to his suggestion that a fence along the Canadian board would be a good idea.  Because when look through the massive coverage on Walker, his Canadian border comments seem to have garnered the most mentions for the August media cycle.  Well, not entirely.  Walker has been very vocal on the Obama administration’s misguided efforts in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East, along with a running commentary on Donald Trump’s bombastic effort to win the conservative vote.  Walker’s +3 point increase was not enough to keep him in the Top-10, as the candidate dropped -4 spots to #12  in the 2016 Presidential Contenders sector. Despite announcing his “suspension” as a 2016 POTUS candidate on Sept. 21st, we will continue to track Walker as a potential VP running mate. 
2016 presidential candidate Chris ChristieNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie was a media loser this month, losing -5 points over the prior month for a current media rating of 84, which moved him down -9 rank positions to tie with Scott Walker at #12. With so many candidates’ media coverage on the upswing, Christie’s camp should be alarmed that he has been losing media caché in the last two months.

The candidate’s August coverage was stretched between blaming the Obama administration for all matter of national ills (stock market crash in China, heroin epidemic, racial tensions, alzheimer’s, Iran going nuclear, etc. ) to continuing commentary about Bridgegate.  

2016 presidential candidate Mike HuckabeeFormer Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee‘s media rating is up +9 point to a strong 81.  The candidate has yet to break into the Top-10 among his GOP rivals, but he continues to make inroads on social issues.  At least half of Huckabee’s coverage related to his off-hand and defended reference to Jews, Israel, the Iran deal, and “marching into an oven”.  It was the last statement that grabbed the attention of the broader media and subsequently dragged the candidate into a firestorm of social media discussions.  In/out of context, linking the genocidal horrors of the Holocaust to the proposed Iran nuclear deal  may not have been the best messaging approach, but with Trump “unplugged” leading in the polls, the gloves are coming off everyone these days!
2016 presidential candidate John KasichJohn Kasich posted a very solid August media rating increase, up +10 points to 80.  In some ways Kasich turned a media corner in August and is now considered a strong candidate worthy of mainstream media attention.  His sector rank improved along with his rating as the candidate moved up +3 positions against his peers to the #15 slot.  Kasich’s media momentum has been strong for 8 consecutive months and his year-over-year rating growth is a strong +57 percent.  Media values are also notable at $4.3 million for August, bringing his cumulative 12-month total to $10.1 million.  A strong showing in the next GOP debate (depending on whether he makes the 10-candidate cut) could propel the Ohio governor into a Top-10 sector position.  But there’s a lot of media ground to cover between his current 80 rating and what looks like a solid group of 90+ media rating players (Trump, Clinton, Sanders, and Bush).
2016 presidential candidate Mitt RomneySo why are we still tracking Mitt Romney in the 2016 Presidential Contenders sector?  Well, he remains an outspoken former presidential hopeful on the GOP side who could prove a viable VP running mate.  And while the media has treated Romney as damaged goods, he hasn’t lost much media rating ground since taking himself off the GOP ticket.  Romney’s rating is up +2 points in August to 80.  As a non-contender, he’s roughly even with Kasich and Huckabee in terms of media prominence.  Not bad for someone who’s not even in the race.  But I’d be kicking myself if he re-entered the picture in January and we didn’t see the media storm on the horizon.  By the way, when it comes to GOP running mates, keep an eye on South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (rating @ 48, down -8 points for August).
2016 presidential candidate Rick PerryYes, we know. On Sept.11, Rick Perry announced his withdrawal (suspension?) from the 2016 POTUS race. Good thing too because apparently no one was answering the phones at his campaign office. Despite sinking -4 media rating points in August, he still managed to eek out a respectable 80. But Mr. Perry lost all the right media in all the wrong places, which tanked his sector ranking by a whopping -9 positions. The weeding of the overrun GOP candidate garden has begun. We will continue to track Perry  — who knows, he could re-emerge from his “suspension” as a VP running mate. 
2016 presidential candidate Elizabeth WarrenMassachussetts Senator Elizabeth Warren‘s take-no-prisoners voice amidst the often bombastic 2016 election noise faded over the August media cycle, with her rating up +2 points to a moderate 78 rating.  Warren dropped -6 spots in the sector ranking to #18, as the officially announced candidates and the media sponge known as Donald Trump cornered the spotlight for August.  Much of the senator’s media attention came from non-election coverage, primarily her attack on the Republican party’s attempt to block funding for Planned Parenthood and the subsequent Republican rebuttals.
2016 presidential candidate Lindsey GrahamFor the August media cycle, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham surrendered the 2 points he garnered in July, as the moderate GOP contender slipped -9 positions to the #19 rank. His current media rating of 77 is well off the other GOP candidates and -21 points behind current GOP leader, Donald Trump.  With declining media visibility and a corresponding drop in the polls, Graham could easily miss the next GOP debate cut-off.    
2016 presidential candidate Bobby JindalGiven all the media attention piled on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it was somewhat surprising to see Bobby Jindal‘s August surge in the media.  The Louisiana governor delivered a very respectable August media performance, with a +10 point rating increase on coverage pendulummed between immigration (essentially building fences) and repealing Obamacare.  Jindal’s media momentum is equally strong, up +52% in August.  But a 76 media rating is comparatively low given the huge gains made by fellow GOP candidates Trump, Bush, Fiorina, and Rubio.
2016 presidential candidate Sarah PalinSarah Palin.  What can I say here, except that I’m counting on one of the many sub-76 candidates to pull ahead of her in the media ratings so I don’t have to analyze her coverage for the remaining months leading up to the election.  There’s wasn’t much meat on the media bones for Palin, except for her passive endorsement of Donald Trump.  Need we say more.  Well we will.  Apparently Palin is rejoining Fox News as a political commentator.  Just when we thought the media had grown tired of John McCain’s worst decision, they go ahead and hire her!