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Santorum surging in Minnesota, but Romney’s biggest worry is now Obama

David Rothschild, Yahoo! News
The Signal

Update, 9:07 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with the most recently prediction data for the likelihood that the candidates will win, place, or show in Minnesota. Preliminary results show Rick Santorum off to a strong start with Ron Paul also doing well, but Mitt Romney still clinging to a likely second place finish:

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Sources: Betfair and Intrade, Real-Time Data

There are three primary contests tonight and, for the first time since Iowa, one of them is looking close. First, in the not-interesting department, is the Colorado caucuses; Mitt Romney won there by 41 percentage points in 2008 and he is poised for an easy victory in 2012. Rick Santorum is 95 percent likely to come in second and Newt Gingrich is 90 percent likely to come in third. In the even less-interesting department, Missouri is holding a "beauty contest" primary in which no delegates will be allotted to the winner.

In Minnesota, however, we could see a reversal of fortunes for Romney. He won the caucuses in 2008 by 18 percentage points, but is facing a possible upset by Santorum in 2012. Santorum is 76.3 percent likely to win and 93 percent likely to finish first or second. Romney is just 18.7 percent likely to win and 73.8 percent likely to finish first or second, according to prediction market data.

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Minnesota_Win_Place_Show


Sources: Betfair and Intrade, Real-Time Data

Yet, regardless of what happens tonight, Romney is still the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination at 84.5 percent. That numbers assumes that he will likely lose in Minnesota and has a non-negligible likelihood of finishing third or even fourth in Minnesota.

The main result of Romney's struggles against the Republican field has not been a lowering of his likelihood of winning the nomination, but a lowering of his likelihood to win the presidency conditional assuming he wins the nomination. Romney's conditional likelihood of victory against Barack Obama has hit its lowest point since the campaign began in earnest this summer. He is just 41.0 percent likely to defeat Obama, should he face him as the Republican nominee. If it's any consolation, this is still higher than his Republican challengers.

Thus, it is not surprising that Obama has hit his recent high point, at 60.1 percent; this is his first time being above 60 percent for reelection since June. Not only does his likely Republican challenger appear to be a weakened candidate, he has had a string of news that boosts his likelihood regardless of his opponent. First, economic indicators are moving in the upward. Second, his job approval rating continues to climb; it is now 48.6 according to the latest aggregated trend on RealClearPolitics. This upward movement likely reflects that positive economic trend.

Follow along on PredictWise for the real-time likelihood of the upcoming republican primaries, the Republican nomination, and the presidential election.

David Rothschild is an economist at Yahoo! Research. He has a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation is in creating aggregated forecasts from individual-level information. Follow him on Twitter @DavMicRot and email him at thesignal@yahoo-inc.com.

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