The Signal

Twitter softens (slightly) on Santorum after Alabama and Mississippi wins

The Signal

As voters warm to Santorum, the often-hostile ranks of Twitter also appear to be softening on the insurgent Republican candidate. A week ago, on Super Tuesday night, we saw a manifestly negative reaction to his speech, as measured by our in-house algorithms that measure sentiment in tweets. Santorum's victory speech last night registered far more mixed reactions, including clear positive spikes. Top keywords associated with the candidate's name throughout the evening included won, double, south, sweeps, reshape, crucial, and grabs.

As one might expect, Santorum's victory in Mississippi, where early indications suggested Romney would win, produced the biggest spike in chatter of the night.

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Tweet volume

Mitt Romney, who did not make a speech,  saw a volume spike on Twitter at the beginning of the evening, after CNN showed aired pre-recorded interview with him and before the outcome of either primary was clear. The volume for Romney's name then remained relatively low through the rest of the evening.  At various times during the coverage, our sentiment index registered negative sentiment spikes as the results trickled in and the night got progressively worse for the former governor. Corresponding top hashtags for the evening included  #cheesygrits, #gomitt,  #jefffoxworthy, #moprimary. Newt Gingrich's spokesperson, R.C. Hommond, even piled on:

@rchammond : Mitt Romney's like the ChevyVolt. Somebody thought it was a good idea and then nobody bought the car.

Interestingly, Rick Santorum's good night on Twitter saw him compete not with Mitt Romney, but with the ultimate target of the GOP primary race: the incumbent. When former press secretary Robert Gibbs appeared on CNN to comment on the night's results, declaring that "this is shaping  up to be a remarkable night for Rick Santorum," Obama's name registered the second highest volume spike of the night.

Most-cited quotes  on Twitter:

Rick Santorum

"We did it again!"

"We will compete everywhere."

"The time is now for conservatives to pull together."

Newt Gingrich

"If you're the frontrunner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a frontrunner."

"The elite media's effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed."

"I congratulate Rick Santorum on a great campaign."

Sample Tweets

About Rick Santorum

@ZekeJMiller: RT @Jordanfabian: Robert Gibbs, Alabama native, on CNN: "This is shaping up to be a remarkable night for Rick Santorum."

@TheTweetOfGod: Rick Santorum, if we make you President of Alabama and Mississippi, will you take them and go? 'Cause that'd be a win-win.

@ PeterHambyCNN Newt adviser floats me idea of a Santorum-Gingrich ticket: "Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would be a powerful team against Barack Obama."

@dmataconis: Wow. Are you Republicans really thinking of giving the nomination the Rick Santorum, or are you just on acid?

About Mitt Romney

@JohnFugelsang: Only Mitt Romney could learn to say 'y'all,' have Jeff Foxworthy & Kid Rock campaign 4 him, & still lose AL & Mississippi

@DavidCornDC: Messina email: "If the general election were held today, President Obama would lose to Mitt Romney"-- accd to WaPo/ABC News poll

@peretti:  Mitt Romney has trouble connecting with white people

About Newt Gingrich:

@jimacostacnn: Asked [Santorum spokesperson] Alice [Stewart] if campaign message after tonight is "Newt Gingrich, it's time to go?" She said "Absolutely."

@jamiedupree: Gingrich: "I congratulate Rick Santorum on a great campaign."

@AriMelber: Newt Gingrich may be the only person in American who is nostalgic for those 27 GOP debates held this cycle.

@SamSeder: There is not one good reason for Newt Gingrich to drop out. There's literally 100k's of reasons for him to stay in. #makemoney

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