Election Oracle

What’s Really at Stake in Michigan

Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the Republican nomination have fallen below 50 percent, according to the Election Oracle, setting up what could be a make-or-break moment for him in Michigan’s primary next Tuesday, which has become a referendum on Mitt Romney’s electability argument.

If he can’t win his native state, the narrative goes, he can’t reasonably become the nominee, let alone beat Obama in the fall.

By the numbers, there isn’t that much at stake in Michigan, where just 30 delegates, awarded proportionately, are at stake out of the 1,144 needed to claim the nomination. Florida last month had 50 in its winner-take-all contest, and 437 are up for grabs on “Super Tuesday” on March 6. But what’s really being tested in Michigan is momentum for Romney and Rick Santorum, who now stands a 32 percent chance of winning the nomination—up from 10 percent on Febrary 8, when Romney had a 62 percent likelihood of wrapping up his party’s nod.

To determine its odds or winning and 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.)

Not only would a loss in Michigan further deflate Romney, but it would give Santorum another burst of positive press and solidify his claim of being voter-approved. Having used his Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri wins to take his first lead in the national polls, claiming Michigan could help propel Santorum in coming big-delegate states like Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee.