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Newt Surges Ahead In The Polls, But What Are People Saying Online?

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, December 5 2011

With Herman Cain suspending his bid for the Republican nomination for president on Saturday, Beltway insiders focused their attention on Newt Gingrich and his viability as the Republicans' presidential candidate as he surges ahead in the polls.

But how is Newt's offline surge manifesting itself online, if at all?

On Facebook, Newt's number of "Likes" continues to steadily increase. On Monday, 203,823 accounts "liked" his Facebook page, up 14 percent from 179,491 on November 22, when we last looked at the numbers.

Meanwhile, a smaller subset of account holders are talking about the page, 33,112, up from 21,216 at the end of November, according to Engage's chart keeping track of Facebook's new metric, which tracks how actively people on Facebook engage with organization's pages.

That 33,112 number places Newt fourth behind Herman Cain with 44,856 accounts interacting with the former candidate's page as of Monday (not surprising given the news cycle), Ron Paul with 39,179 accounts interacting with the campaign's page, and Mitt Romney with 35,501 accounts interacting with the campaign's page.

Of course with 75 percent of its more than 800 million active users located outside of the United States, we have no detailed idea about whether all these people interacting on Facebook's platform are voters who matter to the campaigns, but with an increasing number of services plugging into the Facebook platform, it's still a number worth noting.

Another way to look at online activity is what people are sharing with each other about Newt.

Gingrich clearly dominated the conversation on Twitter in the past month when compared to Mitt Romney, according to Votertide, but that may be because of a retweet bump from Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, who joked on Twitter on Thursday: "Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump are going to sit down for a face to face. Hope they got a big room. That's a lot of face."

In all, there were 198,742 tweets between November 5 and December 5 concerning Newt, with an average of 6,411 tweets a day, according to Votertide.

That compares with 6,701 tweets and an average of 216 tweets a day for the past month for Romney, according to Votertide.com. Even then, the most used phrase associated with Romney was ... guess what? Newt Gingrich. The discussion, according to the data compiled by Votertide, mostly seemed to focus around people speculating over who was going to be the Republican nominee.

Nevertheless, on-the-ground organizing will still remain an important factor for both candidates. Romney has been focusing his effort on building out his physical infrastructure and field operations where in comparison Newt is relatively weak, according to National Journal.

As if to emphasize this, Romney's campaign sent out a fund-raising note via e-mail on Friday that noted that more than 500 volunteers were scheduled to make phone calls and otherwise connect with voters on the ground in New Hampshire, and that his team there had already knocked on more than 26,000 doors, held 17 town hall meetings and planted 11,000 yard signs.

As techPresident noted late November, Newt has created Newt Hampshire to try to tie together his organizing there, but the question is, will he have enough time to pull his troops together?

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