This weekend saw the first primary of the presidential calendar, sort of. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) partnered with Citizens United to hold the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, attracting basically any Republican who's ever appeared in the same sentence as the number "2016."
Why is this not a very good way? Well, Twitter is maybe not the most popular media tool for Iowa conservatives, so it probably doesn't do a great job of capturing the feeling among the base voters that will head to the caucuses next January. But given that the caucuses aren't until next January, it offers at least some way of evaluating how each of the people did. Which, let's be honest, is fun.
The first thing that you will notice is that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin got the most mentions on the day of the event, followed by Ronald McTrump. McTrump's mentions skyrocketed on Sunday not because of his performance at the Iowa event, but because he sponsors the Miss Universe pageant, held that night. And Palin's mentions on Saturday were not uniformly positive.
What you'll notice second is that a raw count isn't very instructive. Palin was already getting thousands of mentions a day. So we also looked at the net change from Friday to Saturday, both in terms of count and in terms of percentage.
The worst performer on the change in number of Twitter mentions was Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), mostly because she'd peaked earlier in the week with her response to the State of the Union address. Leaving off the TV guy, the next biggest gainers were Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas governor Rick Perry.
But click the button that says "percent." Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) saw big percentage-point gains mostly because no one was talking about them on Friday. (Sorry, guys.) The big winner was Perry, who went from not being talked about much to getting a lot of mentions. Then, Carly Fiorina, who went from being talked about very little to being talked about -- about as well as she might have hoped to do.
Does this ranking show how the Republican candidates will rank once all of the primaries are done? Well, probably not. But we will say this: The Topsy/Twitter methodology is at least as scientifically sound as the Iowa Straw Poll.