Which candidates are making a move at the finish today? The Daily Beast Election Oracle, which scans millions of Web sites, reveals who is dominating the last-minute chatter.
It's Game Day: Even with the Republican wave, last-minute surges are making a handful of key campaigns across the country too close to call. So yesterday, we deployed The Daily Beast Election Oracle, which survey millions of websites, blogs, and tweets every day as part of its election predictor, to determine which campaigns had the most last-minute online chatter—and which candidates it was helping or hurting.
This new way of analyzing momentum and perception in real time produces results that reflect overall election dynamics. For example, in Kentucky, Rand Paul has run away with the race amid backlash over Jack Conway's Aqua Buddha ad, as online buzz for Conway has trended 10 percent more negative over the past 72 hours, while Paul's buzz has turned positive. Likewise, in Missouri the polls and the buzz have turned negative against Robin Carnahan, with Roy Blunt looking at a 23 percent positive three-day online trend.
Let's take a look at the Oracle's findings when it comes to some races that are still neck and neck, starting with the Senate.
It's been looking like Lisa Murkowski is pulling a Lazarus in Alaska, coming back from the dead after losing her low-turnout closed partisan primary to Joe Miller. After a disastrous and bizarre series of self-inflicted stumbles, Miller was shown falling behind and in a poll this weekend the GOP seemed to be realigning behind the independent write-in candidacy of Murkowski. But the Election Oracle shows an additional twist in this race—online buzz about Murkowski is 25 percent more negative in the past 72 hours, while Joe Miller's gotten a 9 percent positive buzz bump. With polls closing at 1 a.m. Eastern time, this will be a late-night nail-biter.
This definitive Western swing state is home to a close and contentious Senate race between Tea Party favorite Ken Buck and the appointed incumbent Michael Bennet, who has been able to stay competitive, despite a suburban demeanor, by keeping the focus on Buck's right-wing social conservative beliefs. The Oracle shows Buck with a 5 percent bump in negative buzz over the past week, while Bennet's overall online mentions have decreased—but trended 4 percent more positive—in recent days.
In the Keystone State, the centrist-purging Club for Growth President Pat Toomey and Democratic former Admiral Joe Sestak are trading accusations that the other is an extremist—and perhaps not surprisingly the word extremist is dominating nearly 20 percent of their online debate. With Sestak surging in recent weeks after trailing Toomey for months, the online buzz about this down-to-the-wire race is largely negative, with Sestak leading in overall mentions, but edging Toomey also in negative mentions, 35 percent to 30 percent.
Bennet's online mentions have decreased—but trended 4 percent more positive—in recent days.
The Daily Beast Election Oracle shows incumbent Patty Murray with an 8 percent increase in negative buzz the past three days, while challenger Dino Rossi has seen a 4 percent increase in his positive mentions. But the late-closing state is also largely vote-by-mail, so a lot of these late shifts in perception may be moot.
With 37 governors seats at stake, the Oracle's got insight into the dynamics between two close and inscrutable races:
With Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink locked in a close and ugly race that echoes the national split between GOP self-funded first-time candidates and professional politicians, any late-inning mistake could make the difference. It had seemed that a debate violation by Sink—who looked at a smartphone message from a campaign aide during a debate and then appeared to try to lie about the infraction—would be a game changer. Yet the Oracle shows that while mentions of both candidates have seen an increase in online buzz, Scott's is surprisingly more negative—20 percent more negative in fact, compared to Sink's 6 percent negative rating.
On the other side of the spectrum, the candidates competing in Ohio's high-stakes governor's race—incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican John Kasich—have both seen an increase in positive online buzz over the past 72 hours, with Kasich nosing past Strickland with 40 percent positive change to 32 percent. That edge, plus the GOP wave that is propelling ticket-mate Rob Portman to an easy win for the Senate, could make all the difference for this 2012 presidential bellwether.
In the House, there are too many close races to count, but three stood out to the Oracle.
Indiana 9—This seat is an early indicator, with all of the state's polls closing by 7 p.m. Eastern, and centrist Democrat Baron Hill in a tough fight against GOP candidate Todd Young, with the Republican narrowly leading the increase in online buzz and positive mentions. When incumbents aren't decisively leading online mentions in House seats—usually by a two-thirds margin—it's a sign of trouble.
Florida 25—From an overwhelmingly positive House race to an attack-fest, this campaign between Democrat Joe Garcia and Republican David Rivera is perhaps the most negative in the nation in terms of online buzz. There's been a nearly 90 percent increase in negative buzz surrounding Garcia, while negative perceptions occupy 50 percent of the posts about Rivera in the past 72 hours.
Arizona 8—Another Blue Dog looking to avoid extinction, Gabrielle Giffords is in a tough fight against Republican Jesse Kelly. The key stat here is that Kelly has seen three times as many Internet mentions in the past three days as the incumbent, a lopsided increase that could reflect the larger trend.
Two final statistics to keep in mind—the last time one party won the House and not the Senate was the Democrats in 1930, a reaction to the start of the Great Depression. The last time the GOP controlled only the House and not the White House or Senate was 1859-1861—Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War came next. Politics is history in the present tense.
Correction: This story initially misidentified Jesse Kelly as Jesse Young.
John Avlon's new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America is available now by Beast Books both on the Web and in paperback. He is also the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and a CNN contributor. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.