No, the Mark Sanford numbers aren't actually factored into the archived Google Trends data on the FHQ Candidate Emergence Tracker yet, but the numbers from John Ensign's affair announcement may give us some indication of where Sanford may end up.
Who is represented by that orange line? That's Sarah Palin. Well, Sarah Palin and David Letterman. That particular bump dwarfs the Ensign announcement bump in purple. Both those incidents and where Mark Sanford searches end up underline one important point about the tracker: That the influence of news coverage has to be accounted for in some way.
As we've pointed out several times since we began working with this data, there is a certain recursiveness to this relationship. Candidates drive the media and the media drives candidates. What we have to be on the lookout for in this data is the extent to which news story triggers a bump and then decays over time. Does the trend decay to the point that the earlier equilibrium of searches for that candidate resumes or do we see the emergence of a new equilibrium with a higher/lower search volume. If the track is upward, especially three years away from the next election, we may be seeing the organic, grassroots emergence we originally hypothesized about.
The somewhat unrelated question for now, given that the South Carolina governor is likely out of the 2012 White House sweepstakes, is whether Mark Sanford surpasses Palin/Letterman or settles in between that level and Ensign's announcement last week. I'll update as soon as that becomes apparent on the tracker.
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