As we approach the Iowa Caucuses the GOP presidential candidates are making their closing arguments, but in many respects the party faithful are already voting—with their computers. The results present a fascinating web search tracking poll that could very well become a significant predictor of Tuesday’s winners and losers.
Back in August, the folks at Google digested the internet search trends of Iowans leading up to the GOP Straw Poll. Native daughter Michele Bachmann dominated the search results and became the somewhat surprise winner of the straw poll. (Figure 1)
But the latest Google data from Iowa paints a different story. Texas Congressman Ron Paul far and away leads the trend results with Bachmann significantly trailing. (Figure 2)
Paul is the only candidate who is trending up, everyone else is in a steep decline. In fact during the last 30 days in Iowa, Bachmann barely registers on Google Trends. Similar search data in August showed former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty barely trending and in the end he failed miserably in the straw poll and promptly withdrew from the presidential race.
In my August 15th post, I noted how Bachmann was like a product brand and successfully used two key marketing drivers to her advantage, buzz and activation. She was able to garner much needed attention by positioning herself as the outspoken native Iowan who saluted to the Tea Party flag. Most critically, she was able to activate that buzz into votes at the straw poll. Bachmann was the Tobasco Sauce in a field of corn heading for the canning factory.
Five months later the trend results indicate Iowans feel burned and are searching for someone with less spice. Enter Ron Paul. He’s positioned himself as the Heinz 57 of the field—bold and authentic. He also has a consistent narrative.
Hamline University analyst David Schultz has repeatedly made a compelling case that narratives win elections. Paul’s Libertarian narrative of less government and more individual freedom may represent views that are outside of the mainstream, but nevertheless have been authentically consistent. Meanwhile, Bachmann’s narrative and brand have both been eroded by unfocused campaign appearances and staff defections. Iowans through their search results seem to indicate they no longer have an appetite for hot sauce, but they certainly aren’t big on ketchup either. (Gingrich, Romney, Perry, and Santorum)
Clearly, Paul has the buzz. What remains to be proven is if his brand is strong enough to activate that buzz into votes at Tuesday’s caucuses.