Election Oracle: The Ron Paul Factor

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Ron Paul, the firebrand libertarian with an army of young supporters, has effectively skipped the Florida contest. His odds of landing the nomination remain low, at seven percent according to the Election Oracle. But his high Web favorability numbers could pose problems for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in the upcoming caucus states.

The Election Oracle shows Paul with a field-high favorability rating of 45 on Monday. As throughout the month, Paul has been generating a more favorable conversation online than any other 2012 candidate, President Obama included. The conversation about Paul is so warm in part because it seems to be made up largely of his dedicated supporters: The Oracle counted 12,914 mentions of the congressman on Monday, compared to 70,000 mentions each for Romney and Gingrich.

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.)

While Paul won’t be a factor in Florida, his enthusiasm among his supporters has remained high, meaning he's poised to continue sucking valuable oxygen (read: media and money) away from what Romney and Gingrich would both like to be a two-man race.