Calls for Newt Gingrich to drop his candidacy for the Republican nomination are escalating from party leaders and rivals, but the former House speaker has pledged to keep his campaign alive.

After losing Alabama and Mississippi this week, which many considered his best shot at reviving his candidacy, Gingrich stumped in Illinois ahead of the primary there Tuesday.

But one argument for Gingrich extending his longshot bid is reinforced when closely inspecting @MentionMachine and other social media analytics. As Amy Gardner wrote Wednesday, it appears that Gingrich is helping the Republican cause with his message, if not his candidacy.

The @MentionMachine data show that the Twitterverse is relatively uninterested in Gingrich as a candidate. Despite having more Twitter followers than any of the Republican candidates, he has been mentioned fewer times on Twitter than any of his rivals over the past three weeks.

Gingrich is also second to last on the @MentionMachine leaderboard in mentions by the media, ahead of only Rep. Ron Paul.

Gingrich may not be getting that much notice for himself, but he is getting notice for his new campaign focus on energy and $2.50 gas, which he utilizes social media to promote.

The idea that Gingrich’s energy message will amplify the drumbeat for change this fall may be the best reason for him to forge ahead with his campaign. The hashtag #250gas, which the Gingrich campaign started, was used more than 9,500 times on Twitter on March 12, according to Topsy Analytics, while the candidate’s name or Twitter handle were mentioned only 7,514 times.

Columnist Eugene Robinson wrote in this morning’s Washington Post that Gingrich’s presence in the race helps Rick Santorum by putting even more bumps in Mitt Romney’s road to the nomination.

But if Gingrich can use his candidacy to capi­tal­ize on frustration over rising gas prices — including drumming up support on social media — anyone who becomes the eventual Republican nominee could benefit from a prolonged Gingrich campaign.

Republicans on the 2012 field: Blah.
Gallon by gallon, frustration builds
Quiz: Which Republican candidate matches your beliefs?
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