The Republican Debate: Whose Email Makes the Cut?

Posted by Kevin Kelleher on

One stage, 10 podiums, 17 candidates. Who will be chosen to participate in the first debate of the 2016 presidential election? The debate host, Fox News, will make its determination on August 4 based on current poll standings. Remaining candidates (who earned at least 1% in the polls) will be relegated to what is being referred to as the “kiddie table,” a short, televised discussion, which will precede the debate itself.

Poll results seem like a reasonable means of ranking top contenders, but email engagement metrics can tell more about how well candidates are doing with the people they hope to reach. We took a look at their performance across our consumer network of more than 2 million email subscribers to rank the campaigns over the past week and here’s what we found:

capture (1)

1. Source:

If we were to rank candidates by read rate—the percentage of email subscribers who bother to read the messages they receive, and therefore appear to be actually interested in what the candidate has to say—the field looks a bit different:


It seems at this stage of the race, the Donald can do no wrong in the eyes of pollees and his email subscribers alike. Meanwhile, several contenders are struggling to get more than 10% of their messages read.

Subscribers ignored more than 10% of the messages they received from Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum, deleting them without ever reading them. But this metric can be misleading because some poorly performing candidates seem to have very low delete-without-reading rates. In fact, subscribers aren’t getting the chance to ignore some candidates’ messages because they aren’t being delivered to the inbox. Most messages from Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker went directly to spam. Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, and John Kasich fared even worse, sending more than 70% of their messages to the spam folder.

Hubspot reports benchmark open rates are between 30 and 33%. For the most part, these candidates’ email campaigns are failing to connect with their audiences, falling well short of the engagement that marketers rely on to build relationships and gain customers.

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About Kevin Kelleher

Kevin Kelleher manages Analyst Relations at Return Path. He keeps technology experts informed about all the exciting things Return Path is bringing to market. In his spare time, Kevin enjoys running and fencing. Connect with him at

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