For the first time since voting began, Mitt Romney’s odds of winning the Republican nomination fell below 50 percent Wednesday.
While Romney’s odds have plunged, from 67 percent just a week ago to 45 percent today, Newt Gingrich’s have surged, from nine to 23 percent. Both men have seen their favorability ratings plummet as the race has tightened and they’ve aggressively attacked each other.
To determine favorability ratings, the Election Oracle tracks 40,000 news sites, blogs, message boards, Twitter feeds, and other social-media sources to analyze what millions of people are saying about the candidates—and determines whether the Web buzz is positive or negative. That rating is weighted, along with the Real Clear Politics polling average and the latest InTrade market data, to calculate each candidate’s chances of winning the Republican nomination. (See methodology here.)
Expect the odds in the Republican race to tip toward whoever wins in Florida’s winner-takes-all delegates primary on Tuesday, and then to become more stable as the primary calendar expands. There are only a few small- and mid-size state primaries between then and super Tuesday on March 3rd, and only two of the debates that have often reshaped the race scheduled between now and then. Whoever emerges from the Republican dogfight is likely to be bruised from the battle, as President Obama, who effectively opened his election season with his State of the Union address Tuesday night, has had a significantly higher favorability rating than either Romney or Gingrich throughout January.