With the Republican primary election campaign getting into full swing, the XA.net data team decided to mine our proprietary optim.al social media graph, in order to shed light on the race’s themes and personalities; and perhaps even to steer us toward a prediction of who might take on President Obama in next year’s general election.
The interest graph is dominated by a dense, central cluster of Republican politicians (‘mike huckabee’, ‘tim pawlenty’), media personalities (‘bill o’reilly’, ‘sean hannity’), and Republican boosters (‘federalist society’, ‘positively republican’, ‘tea party patriots’). Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are all solidly in this cluster, expressing the sort of ‘race-to-the-base’ into which presidential primary contests tend to evolve.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is just barely connected to the core cluster; suggesting that, despite years of rumor regarding a presidential candidacy, Palin is not a viable Republican contender. In fact, the actual Sarah Palin who emerges from this interest graph is less a politician and more a suburban strip mall celebrity, hovering between teenage heartthrobs, reality TV stars and fast food chains.
Similarly, Ron Paul also comes across as an outsider in our research, though this is a characterization that he would likely appreciate. Paul hovers near radio host/conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as well as keywords such as ‘libertarian’, ‘constitution’ and ‘common sense’. That said, neither Paul nor Palin is completely disconnected from the cluster at the graph’s core. For example, Paul shares a connection to ‘constitution’ with Mitt Romney; Palin shares a connection to George Bush with both Romney and Bachmann, and a link to keyword ‘jesus is the son of god’ with Rick Perry.
To the extent the primary election becomes about policy instead of personality, it appears that Perry may have an edge. While the 3 core candidates are all associated with themes around healthcare reform repeal (‘repeal it now’, ‘scrap the bill’, ‘choose freedom stop obamacare’), Perry is out ahead of his competitors with regard to other key issues important to the Republican base (‘secure the border’, ‘defeat debt’, ‘guns and patriots’). Perry is also the candidate most closely associated with ‘college republicans’, a sure source of motivated and inexpensive labor, willing to brave the desolate winters of Iowa and New Hampshire, where the election will be fought.
Perry is also the only candidate who shows a strong affinity with Ronald Reagan. If the tone of the primary moves away from policy and becomes an exercise in occupying and mobilizing the cult of Reagan; well, Perry may have that wrapped up as well.