With Iowa's first in the nation presidential nominating caucuses coming tomorrow, and New Hampshire's primaries following early next week, pundits and observers across the nation are closely watching the polls and prediction markets for early word on who might win. But these pundits might be ignoring a potentially important leading indicator of political opinion. We're talking, of course, about World of Warcraft character names.

As pointed out by blogger Andrew Sullivan, a full 48 realms in the popular online game have a player-characters named after Republican candidate Ron Paul (player names must be unique to a realm). The WoW naming support for Paul isn't that surprising given the recent in-game rally held in his honor in Whisperwind's IronForge. Paul runs well ahead of his closest competitor, Democrat Barack Obama, who shares a name with 36 WoW characters. No other candidate breaks the ten-character mark in a search of World of Warcraft info. resource The Armory.

While naming a WoW character after your favorite politician seems a great way to show your support, it's not always possible. For one, names longer than twelve characters are not allowed, meaning supporters of Hillary Clinton or Bill Richardson couldn't use their full names for a WoW character. Even shortened names don't always work -- in our tests, characters named HillClinton, HClinton and just plain old Clinton were deemed "unavailable." This likely means the Clinton name has run afoul of Blizzard's terms of use clause against using character names that belong "to a popular culture figure, celebrity, or media personality." (This is also probably why there are no characters named BillClinton or GeorgeWBush. There are 29 GeorgeW's though).

While tracking WoW's presidential naming race is fun and all, it probably has very little actual value in predicting nationwide voting preferences. After all, there are 71 characters named Trogdor, and no one really expects him to burninate across the 2008 elections.

Read on for a complete list of WoW's presidential candidate name counts, as of press time.

(Thanks to WowInsider's Elizabeth Harper for help with this story)

World of Warcraft character name count
(Last name statistics are included just for fun -- some are obviously more common than others)

Republicans

  • RonPaul: 47 (57 for Paul alone)
  • MittRomney: 9 (25 for Romney alone)
  • JohnMcCain: 4 (27 for McCain alone)
  • FredThompson: 4 (81 for Thompson alone)
  • RudyGiuliani: 3 (9 for Giuliani alone)
  • MikeHuckabee: 2 (30 for Huckabee alone)

Democrats
  • BarackObama: 36 (69 for Obama alone)
  • JohnEdwards: 4 (40 for Edwards alone)
  • JoeBiden: 1 (4 for Biden alone)
  • ChrisDodd: 0 (40 for Dodd alone)
  • BillRichardson: 0* (33 for Richardson alone)
  • DennisKucinich: 0* (4 for Kucinich alone)
  • HillaryClinton: 0* (0 for Clinton alone**)
* - These names are over WoW's 12 -character limit.
** - The name "Clinton" seems to be blocked for characters on WoW servers.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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