The Paul Problem for Mitt Romney
I was out for my jog this frigid morning and before me I could see some letters appearing on the asphalt trail in colored chalk – stride, stride, stride, “R O N,” stride, stride, stride, “P A U L,” stride, stride, stride, “2 0 1 2.” Not only are they Googling it, they are chalking it up on the trail.
I don’t like him. He reminds me of Harry Reid with personality and smart mouth. His ideas are stale and unworkable. He’s a one man band.
The only thing I agree with Donald Trump about is that Ron Paul is unelectable. Sure, he has a faction of followers and so do the Tea Party, and so does Newt and the remaining Rick. Hell, even Herman Cain has a following including Paula Deen, perhaps.
“US Election 2012 v Google: can search data predict the Republican primary winner?
Google search data reveals Ron Paul is more popular than Mitt Romney and every Republican primary candidate, while Rick Santorum faces serious reputation problems.
By Indu Chandrasekhar
3:40PM GMT 20 Jan 2012
You can learn a lot from what people are Googling, and in the race to choose the Republican nominee to face Barack Obama in November, you have to wonder whether the voters are taking the candidates seriously. In their searches, they're not just looking for more information on Mitt Romney's master plan for the United States. They'd also like to see some pictures of Jon Huntsman's daughters. And know whether Newt Gingrich is a racist. After last week's news that comedian Stephen Colbert was polling better than Jon Huntsman in the South Carolina primary, it paints a worrying picture for the party.
It's understandable, in a way. The campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination have been something of a freakshow. Mitt Romney said he liked firing people. Michele Bachmann said the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. Rick Perry misnamed North Korea's departed Dear Leader as Kim Jong the Second. Given that the messages splashed about during the Republican primaries have been less about campaign promises and more about Newt Gingrich's wivesand whether Mitt Romney strapped his dog to the roof of a car, can you blame the public for being interested?
The Ricks, Perry and Santorum, have had the worst time on Google. Automatically suggested search terms (Google's auto-suggested results generally reflect the most popular terms) for Rick Perry ask if he is drunk or gay; and while his "Strong" video advert continues to enjoy steady search traffic, the video has 750,000 "dislikes", suggesting some of these viewers are not exactly fans. Perry's debate performances are also among his internet hits, a painful reminder that some gaffes won't be forgotten soon. But Google searches for Rick Perry himself have plummeted over the last two months, so it comes as no surprise that he dropped out of the race.
Santorum's problem is of an entirely different magnitude and shows the real power of search engine optimisation, or SEO. In 2003, Santorum gave a speech comparing homosexuality to paedophilia and bestiality. Popular columnist Dan Savage responded by soliciting new definitions for 'Santorum' from his readers, set up a website, and encouraged thousands of people to link to it. This is an essential aspect of influencing a site's rankings in search results, and is part of why Savage's website ranks above Santorum's own. And since any renewed interest in Santorum equals renewed interest in the 'meaning' of his name, the Pennsylvania senator faces at uphill battle in reclaiming his Google dignity. (Santorum's most recent advert demonstrates at least his sponsors are more aware of the power of technology.)
Search trends can be positive for a campaign as well as negative, and have proved useful for the underdog. In August 2011, Jon Stewart questioned what he saw as a media blackout on Dr Ron Paul, particularly on television. But despite Stewart's intervention and the Texas congressman's formidable following, the media frenzy focused on the more dramatic people and events in the campaign: the meteoric rise and fall of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry's strong early performance and debate disasters, Rick Santorum's Iowa success, Newt Gingrich's popularity in South Carolina and Mitt Romney's finances.
But data from Google Insights for Search shows Dr Paul was consistently more searched for than any other candidate, save for a spike around the Iowa caucus for Rick Santorum. (The same holds for Twitter.) Romney and Dr Paul were the only two candidates to have significant search interest leading up to the New Hampshire primary. Search data from the last 30 days in South Carolina show Dr Paul is the favourite there too, with Gingrich getting half as much attention, even as he leads the polls. Could it be that voters are tired of the mudslinging and looking for a cleaner candidate?
As the prospective list whittles further down and the candidates mount greater attacks on Romney, Dr Paul looks increasingly like the dark horse for the Republican nomination. He presents a serious problem for Mitt Romney if the latter wins the Republican nomination - for the supporters of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney rarely sit on the same side of the fence.
Search results and social media can never be absolute predictors of elections, just as pre-election polls do not uniformly match the outcome. But it's a reminder that reports and campaign rhetoric can greatly differ from the view on the ground. The coronation of Mitt Romney may not be so inevitable after all.”