Politics

02.09.12

What if Palin Were Running?

The door has closed on Sarah Palin running for president as a Republican. Even if she changed her mind and threw in her hat, the calendar and delegate count would put the GOP nomination out of reach. She has also said repeatedly she's not interested, and threw passive support to Newt Gingrich.

But consider for a moment that Palin was running, how would she do? With so many media and voter variables at play, it's hard to know for sure. But the Election Oracle shows something unique for Palin. She enjoys extremely high regard online – on Wednesday her favorability was a sky-high 84 – which means she's earning a far higher rate of positive mentions than for any other candidate, President Obama included. The conversation is admittedly small: Palin was mentioned 1-50th the amount of times as Mitt Romney, and 1-35th the number of Rick Santorum, who had his biggest week yet after a series of state wins. She also isn't granted the same scrutiny the media give to actual candidates. Yet still, unlike any of her colleagues, Palin is being buzzed about with almost exclusively glowing reviews.

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To determine its 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.)

As Palin prepares to deliver the high-profile keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, the data show a formerly unquantifiable truth about the polarizing ex-governor. Whenever she's in the news, the web reacts with fervor. When she stays mum, her favorability rises again. That's true with most candidates, but it's extra dramatic with Palin. Each time she has made controversial statements on TV (she has an exclusive contract with Fox News), like to criticize Obama or endorse Gingrich, her rating plummets. A few days later, it's back off the charts.

So could she make it as a candidate? Unlikely. Only, it appears, if she could run a campaign without making a sound might she have a chance.

The Election Oracle is updated with new data every weekday morning. Find it via email at Oracle@newsweekdailybeast.com, or on Twitter at @ElectionOracle.