Gingrich receives small boost in markets after strong debate performance in South Carolina

David Pennock
Computer Scientist
The Signal

By many accounts, Newt Gingrich won the Fox News Republican debate Monday night in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He even received a two-minute standing ovation, apparently the first in a debate since 1980.

Meanwhile, Gingrich earned, if not a standing-O, at least a nod on prediction markets Intrade and Betfair, where political handicappers rate his chances of winning South Carolina's Republican primary Saturday by putting money on the line. Between the beginning and the end of the debate, traders bought into his Palmetto State candidacy a fraction more heavily, boosting his likelihood of winning from 5 percent to about 8 percent. The rise occurred within hours of the debate, leaving little doubt traders were reacting to what they saw—or, more accurately, what they felt the South Carolina electorate saw—in Myrtle Beach.

Republican candidates' chances of wining South Carolina primary, as of 1/17/2012
Republican candidates' chances of wining South Carolina primary, as of 1/17/2012

Mitt Romney fell, if slightly, for the first time in several days, from 90 percent to about 88 percent. This number says in effect that, if the final week of the South Carolina primary were to somehow play out ten times in ten different ways, Romney would win nine of them.

Rick Santorum was neither helped not hurt by the debate, but after enjoying a brief rise following his endorsement by over a hundred prominent evangelicals, his chances on the prediction markets have fallen back down to about 3 percent. Ron Paul is holding steady at about 2 percent likely to emerge victorious in South Carolina, or a 1 in 50 longshot chance.

As I noted last week, elections are not independent events, the way football games generally are. While South Carolina was considered unfriendly territory for Romney going into the primary season, his victories in the first two contests have boosted him to a near-certain victory this weekend.

David Pennock is a research scientist at Yahoo! Research. Follow him on twitter @pennockd.

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