With just nine months to go until the 2016 general election, and state caucuses and primaries underway, media coverage shifted into high gear in January. Let’s look at the winners and losers:

Democrats

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  • Hillary Clinton (#2 at 96): Despite an advancing Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton held on to her rating lead in January, gaining +2 points to earn a 96 and retaining her #2 overall rank in the 2016 Presidential Contenders sector.
  • Bernie Sanders (#3 at 94): “Feel the Bern” Bernie Sanders remains close on Clinton’s heels, narrowing the media gap with an impressive +5 point gain to earn his all-time high of 94 and retain his #3 overall rank.
  • Martin O’Malley (#16 at 78), who has since dropped out of the race, gained +2 points in January, but still lags far behind the Democratic front runners at 78 points. We’ll continue to measure O’Malley’s visibility in earned media as he could be a VP contender. Plus he’s really handsome.

Republicans

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  • Donald Trump (#1 at 98) gained +1 point over his prior-month stratospheric rating of 97, closing the January media cycle at 98 points and the #1 overall rank. To give you an idea of the relative strength of a 98 rating, Trump is +6 points ahead of our current sitting President Barack Obama, who closed the month at 92! In fact, Trump’s media rating is above all of the 100+ world leaders that we track.
  • Ted Cruz (#4 at 91) advanced +2 points, bumping him for the first time into 90s rating territory for his all-time high of 91. Not unexpected given the big push to the Iowa caucus where he trumped Trump.
  • Jeb Bush (#5 at 88): Coming in #5 overall and third among GOP candidates was Jeb Bush at an 88 rating – no change over his December media performance. He’s -7 points off his August 2015 high of 95. He’s got to re-earn his 90s-level media love to get back in the game.
  • Sarah Palin (#7 at 87): Yes, even though she’s not officially running, Sarah Palin’s ability to garner media attention remains strong. Her endorsement of Trump catapulted her brand +18 points to the #7 peer rank. We’ll keep her in the “contenders” mix, if only to serve as an anecdotal comparative benchmark.
  • Marco Rubio and Chris Christie (tied for #8 at 86) closed the top-tier GOP rating race with mutual 86 ratings, although Rubio’s was up +4 points over the prior month versus Christie’s +2 point increase. It’s still a crowded GOP field with what, NINE candidates as of this writing. (Christie dropped out of the race Feb. 10.)
  • Ben Carson (#10 at 85): Ben Carson lost critical media ground in January that will be difficult to make up as the winners in Iowa take their dog-and-pony show to the next primary states. He lost -3 points, closing January at 85, -7 points off his all-time high of 92. (Note that presidential contender Paul Ryan is tied with Carson at #10/85.)
  • John Kasich and Carly Fiorina (tied for #14 at 80) are struggling to stay relevant at 80 points respectively. While Kasich’s media rating is up +1 point over the prior month, he’s still failed to break out of the low 80s range. Ditto for Carly Fiorina, who gained +2 points in January but is well off her September high of 90. (Fiorina dropped out of the race Feb. 10. Also note that contenders Joe Biden and Rand Paul are tied at #12 at 83 points.)

Overall, there were a lot of net rating gains as the media focused coverage on the state caucuses and primaries. The gloves are off and the candidates are swinging. No doubt we’ll see the sub-90 rating GOP candidates drop out in the next couple months.

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