The GOP race over the past two weeks has boiled down to two questions: “Can Mitt Romney seal the deal?” and “Can Rick Santorum mount a big enough surge to take Romney down?” Both queries come up for a referendum next week in Michigan. But in the mean time, both questions imply that there’s little room left for anyone else in the race, certainly not Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul, both of whom, according to the Election Oracle, have been pummeled in Web volume by the two frontrunners.In a campaign that has come down to buzz rather than raw delegate counts, Gingrich and Paul are running a sizable deficit. Despite the February lull of debates and primaries—which ends tonight with a debate in Arizona hosted by CNN—both trailing candidates have fallen out of the conversation. Measured on Tuesday, Romney (with 39,001 mentions) and Santorum (36,317) had more than twice as much Web volume as Gingrich (14,904) and Santorum (12,285). The metric of volume matters: being talked about translates into campaign donations. Expendable money, in turn, amounts of ground organization, media buys, and, ultimately, votes.
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 (see charts at right). 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. (Methodology here.)
Both Romney and Santorum have urged Gingrich to drop out of the race, after his candidacy nearly collapsed when he lost Florida. Paul, meanwhile, has stayed steady and consistent, remaining popular with his enthusiastic band of libertarian followers, but gaining hardly any other traction. Neither man, however, has exuded confidence over the past month that a win is actually still possible. When asked if he was still expecting to win his home state of Georgia last week, Gingrich effectively shrugged his shoulders. “Look, given this kind of a year,” he said, “who knows?”