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A Nail-Biter in Iowa

Here we are in a new year and kicking it off with the first electoral event: the Iowa Caucus.

As of 10 PM (PT), the Republican Party’s roller coaster campaign and last night’s race in Iowa stood at a virtual tie between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Ron Paul came in at a respectable third place. It appears to have been the time for a new front runner-and the beginning of the end for some candidates. It was also a true test for Mitt Romney, who, for more than a year, and during his 2008 caucus performance, pulled around 25% of the votes and stayed flat all year round. In August, it was Michele Bachmann who won the Ames Straw Poll, but then later that month and into September, Rick Perry led the field by 38%. By October, it was Herman Cain, but by late November, it was Newt Gingrich. Finally, leading up to last night’s caucus, Iowans rewarded Rick Santorum for spending months going from small town to small town.

But who led the race on the social front? As of 1:20 AM (Jan. 4, ET) a measly 18 votes separated Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, but the online chatter and share of voice belonged to Ron Paul, followed by a dead tie between the “Ricks” (Santorum & Perry) followed closely by Romney and Gingrich.

The 2012 elections are sure to be a much talked about topic online, now through the November 6th Presidential Election. In a 24-hour period alone, there were nearly 200,000 posts on the Iowa Caucus with the large majority taking place on Twitter.

And evident in the graph below, the biggest conversation spike was at 8PM (PT) on the day of the Iowa Caucus.

The first electoral event of an election year has definitely set a tone in previous election years, more often than not, serving as an early indication of which candidates for president might win the nomination of their party and which ones drop out for lack of support. The chatter on social channels will also set its own tone and could very well tell the same or a completely different story.

I took a quick look at Topic Discovery in Visible Intelligence and found that Mitt Romney is perceived as the top candidate to beat President Obama in November’s race. And no surprise that Rick Santorum is closely associated with the hashtag #tcot (Top Conservatives on Twitter)—earning 36% of true conservative voters.

Now it’s off to New Hampshire for the first primary of the year. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the GOP race, particularly the top 3 candidates, and see how they fare in the long run.

Romney may have eked out a win in Iowa (by 8 actual votes), but let’s not forget that Ron Paul is still very much in this race-  it was a combination of young and independent voters that gave Barack Obama the Democratic Party nomination in 2008.

Tags : social media

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