Santorum does not have a “Google Problem.” He has a civil rights problem. (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

The continued position of Spreading Santorum and other sites is a reflection
of what Internet users want to read about. Chris Wilson, now with us at The Signal, wrote a few months ago in Slate that Spreading Santorum's prevalence cannot simple be explained away as an organized smear campaign. In the past, links from other sites were hugely important in determining a page's position in search results; thus, an ultimately irrelevant site could do well in search results by getting a lot people to link to it. But search companies have refined their algorithms to make them much harder to play these games. For Spreading Santorum to remain this strong, despite the launch of Santorum's presidential campaign, is a sign that it's still relevant to the primary.

For curious searchers, there's plenty to read about. Consider a sampling of his positions:

Santorum has repeatedly expressed support for overturning Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraceptives for married couples. In a now-famous 2003 interview with an AP reporter, he categorized same-sex relationships alongside pedophilia and bestiality–comments that ultimately inspired Savage, the founder of the "It Gets Better" campaign, to start his alternative site. Santorum attributes the Catholic Church sex scandals to the loose morals of Boston, a position he defended to a stunned George Sephanopoulos in 2005. He recently attacked Barack Obama's pro-choice views on the basis that Obama is black. He told David Gregory he would prosecute doctors who perform any abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. He believes that the Constitution should treat the cells created at conception as a life, which would in practice give them precedence over the human carrier; even Mississippi voters rejected this position in 2011.

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Prediction market data provided strong guidance in Iowa (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

Where prediction markets really showed their value was in the real-time aggregation of information. They did not favor Romney all night long, but were constantly digesting and aggregating all the recent and relevant dispersed information. Just as voting began, entrance polling showed that Ron Paul was doing well among the anyone-but-Romney crowd. Accordingly, the markets moved away from Santorum toward Paul. Yet, while the vote totals and pundits were still trumpeting Paul, prediction markets reversed their course in less than two hours moved toward a tight Romney and Santorum race.

The most impressive stretch of time for the prediction markets was as the last few results trickled in at around midnight Eastern time, four hours after voting began. Santorum was consistently winning in the vote total to the very end, but the markets knew what was left to be counted. At 11:54 PM ET I tweeted: "Markets still favoring Romney in IA even though he is down by 113 votes with 96% reporting? Almost everything left is college town of Ames." While the ultimate outcome was extremely close, the prediction markets were able to incorporate all available information to provide an efficient data point during the vote counting.

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Romney regains commanding lead in Iowa (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

A few hours before the Iowa caucuses begin, Mitt Romney is just over 50 percent likely to win this first-in-the-nation primary contest, according to data from the prediction markets Betfair and Intrade. This is a strong recovery for the candidate, who was trailing both Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul for much of December. And it is only one of four major changes that have taken place in the prediction markets for Iowa in the last few days.

Since last Thursday, Paul has fallen from a high of over 50 percent likelihood of victory to just about 25 percent. Rick Santorum has pulled away from the trailing pack of candidates to become a serious contender. And most interestingly, the markets that once gave Gingrich a 60 percent chance of winning have completely written him off, along with any other candidate, contrary to the polls that still have him at about 14 percent.

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What do Mitt Romney and the Green Bay Packers have in common? Good odds (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

This week the real action begins in two beloved American sports: politics and football. And analyzing the football playoffs can tell us a lot about how we predict elections. Using prediction market data from Betfair and Intrade, the Green Bay Packers have a 32 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl. The next best likelihoods go to the New England Patriots at 18.5 percent and the New Orleans Saints at 15.3 percent. The Packers and the Patriots both have a first-round bye in the playoffs, so they need to win three rounds of contests to capture the championship; the Saints are in the wild-card round, so they need to win four rounds.

We can think of the presidential election as a two-round playoff for Republicans, with the added twist that all the teams play one another at the same time in the first round, with a play clock that ticks down over months instead of minutes. (President Obama gets a bye in the first round, facing no significant challenge to the nomination). Utilizing the same prediction market data, Mitt Romney has a 36.8 percent likelihood of becoming president, still far behind Obama's 52.0 percent likelihood of reelection.

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What’s the likelihood that Democrats could control Washington in 2012? (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

The chart shows how these three main predictions have shifted during the course of the year. Obama had a small spike when Osama Bin Laden was captured, but otherwise he's been on a slow decline for most of the summer and early fall, with a slow resurgence in the late fall and early winter. The Senate has been relatively steady with small spikes corresponding to shifts in specific seats, including retirements and announcements of new candidates. The House has shown the most flux with a steep decline that mirrored the President's, but continued longer into the fall. Yet, it has taken a sharp turn towards the Democrats in recent weeks:

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Making big bets on Iowa: Gingrich and Perry, not Romney (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

Gambling is about demonstrating confidence in potential wins and losses. Romney is making an investment with a huge potential upside and small potential cost. For Gingrich and Perry a poor showing in Iowa followed by a beating in New Hampshire would leave both limping and bleeding heading into South Carolina; they have serious costs if their bets do not succeed.

There is a meaningful fight in Iowa, but Romney is secure in New Hampshire:

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Romney leads prediction markets even as poll numbers lag (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

On Monday, neoconservative leader, George W. Bush foreign policy cheerleader, and early supporter of Sarah Palin, Bill Kristol, made an emotional plea for a new anyone-but-Romney candidate to join the race for the Republican nomination. Yet Gingrich's woes show that it is too late for a new candidate to build a national organization and get ballot access. Thus, the more trouble that occurs for the remaining anyone-but-Romney candidates, the more likely Romney himself gets to winning the nomination.

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Another anyone-but-Romney collapse: Guess who’s the front-runner again? (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

Romney may look weak by not gathering any momentum with the electorate, but it is likely to be a winning strategy for the Republican nomination. Gingrich earned headlines this week by talking about arresting federal judges who make "controversial rulings"; former George W. Bush attorney general called the proposal, "dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off-the-wall and [he asserts it] would reduce the entire judicial system to a spectacle."

Meanwhile Romney, when confronted about the payroll tax debate, preferred to "keep a safe distance from the fray in Washington," as CBS correspondents Sarah Boxer and Sarah Huisenga put it. While he talked about how assertive he will be when he is president, he declined to be assertive now. Entering the payroll tax debate carries a risk; he could end up being associated with a losing policy (or lack thereof). But, it would have made news if he actually pushed. With opponents imploding all around him, Romney seems to feel that despite the possible reward, speaking up is not worth the gamble.

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Now that Iowa is a dead heat, Romney is national GOP frontrunner again (Originally posted on Yahoo!'s "The Signal" Blog)

Newt Gingrich's likelihood of winning the Republican nomination plummeted in the prediction markets from nearly 40 percent midday on Tuesday to about 20 percent midday on Thursday, holding at 19.6 percent as of this writing. Gingrich still has a large lead in Real Clear Politics' aggregated trend of national Republican polls with 33.2 percentage points to 22.7 percentage points for Mitt Romney and 10.0 percentage points for Ron Paul. Gingrich's abrupt drop in the prediction markets is all about concerns over his strength in Iowa.

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