Public sentiment regarding Texas Rep. Ron Paul has turned drastically negative in the first few days of 2012, according to an analysis of all of the Republican presidential candidates conducted by a GOP media firm.

Since the start of the new year, Paul, who finished third in the Iowa caucuses, has experienced a precipitous negative turn in public mentions as calculated by TargetPoint, a Republican media firm, which has developed a tool — called the National Dialogue Monitor — that “tracks every time a celebrity, organization, issue or corporation is mentioned across all media channels — television, radio, newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites and social networks — measuring the associated volume, tone, and topics of each tracked entity.”

(Full disclosure: TargetPoint’s micro-targeting unit does some work for the campaign of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney but the National Dialogue Monitor is an entirely separate entity.)

The reason for Paul’s negative downturn isn’t entirely clear. He has received considerable negative press over newsletters that expressed racist sentiments that bore his name, which could explain some of the precipitous decline of late.

Paul is the only candidate whose overall sentiment is in negative territory. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum remains the candidate with the highest positive sentiment, not surprising given his near-miss in the Iowa caucuses and resultant bump in the race.

Monitoring mentions alone isn’t scientific nor conclusive about a candidate’s fate in the race. But it’s damn interesting.

Here’s the full chart: