The 2012 race has now entered open waters. A break between major primaries and reduced media attention has taken the pressure off the candidates, especially Mitt Romney, who's Web favorability has shot upward over the past week.
The buzz surrounding Romney in January was mostly negative. Constant attacks from rival campaigns and occasional gaffes masked the good news of his sizable wins in New Hampshire and Florida. His favorability even bottomed out at -53 the day he won Florida. But the Election Oracle sees Romney quickly finding new footing. As the narrative begins to dismiss Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul from the race, Romney's latest rating of 42 suggests the Web is feeling more comfortable about the former Massachusetts governor becoming the inevitable nominee.
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.)
Is Romney's web favorability likely to fall again? Almost certainly, as major attention turns again to the race later this month and as Gingrich launches new attacks before Super Tuesday on March 6, as the former speaker has promised. But Romney's campaign is now turning squarely toward President Obama, preparing for a long general-election fight. That race appears to be competitive. After a month of trailing Obama by double digits, Romney now earns higher ratings online than the president.
The Election Oracle is updated with new data every weekday morning. Find it via email at Oracle@newsweekdailybeast.com, or on Twitter at @ElectionOracle.