Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Twitterville Likes Romney’s VP Choice, for Now

It’s only been about 15 hours since Republican presidentiall candidate Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate. As of yet, there aren’t any national polls formally gauging the reaction of voters to Romney’s choice. But one place where Romney appears to have boosted his standing against President Barack Obama, at least for now, is on Twitter.

The latest version of the Twitter Political Index, a daily measurement of the population’s sentiment toward the two White House contenders showed Romney doing something he hasn’t done since mid-July, which is to pull ahead of Obama. Romney scored a 39 for the day, meaning, as AllThingsD’s Mike Isaac explained earlier this month, that tweets containing Romney’s name or account name, @MittRomney, are on average more positive than 39 percent of all of the 400 million tweets on all subjects, not just politics. That score amounted to an improvement of 25 points from the prior day, and can easily be attributed to chatter about the pros and cons of Ryan’s winning of the Veepstakes.

President Obama saw his score surge by eight points, to 32. His score has been falling from a recent spike of 74 earlier in the week.

And while it’s not exactly scientific like, say, a Gallup opinion poll, in which a segment of the population is formally asked about its opinions and attitudes toward a candidate on specific issues, Twitter does like to brag that its scores have, at least in President Obama’s case, tended to closely parallel the patterns of his approval ratings.

I’m no polling expert, but I’ve lived through enough presidential elections to know that candidates always get a bump in the national polls after they pick their running mate. And Gallup’s historical data, going back to 1996, bears this out. The bounce in sentiment on Twitter appears to be more or less consistent with that tradition, though we’ll know more about it after a few national polls hit the streets. (Hat tip to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times for the Gallup link.)

Gallup’s data on the subject doesn’t go further back than 1996. But its data shows that the biggest post-Veepstakes surge in the polls occurred that year, when Sen. Bob Dole, then running against Bill Clinton, named Jack Kemp as his running mate. History lesson for the youngsters: Kemp had been an NFL quarterback and played for the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills before getting elected to the House of Representatives. He later served as Housing Secretary to the first President Bush.

Here’s another interesting bit of related trivia, which, naturally, I learned via Twitter: When the running mate comes from the House of Representatives, the ticket tends not to win. The last time a running mate on a winning presidential ticket came from the House was in 1908.

Not that you asked, but that was the year that William Howard Taft, who had been Teddy Roosevelt’s vice president, picked James S. Sherman from New York. Roosevelt and Taft are both well-remembered in history, and Roosevelt biographies remain bestsellers even today. Sherman — who is remembered mostly for dying while running with Taft in a reelection bid that ultimately failed — I had to look up.

Also on the rise today? Tweets about obscure political trivia. That’s just a hunch.

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