No one gave little-known state legislator R. Creigh Deeds much of a chance in the Democratic primary for Virginia governor. He was up against well-known Democratic operative and former DNC chairman Terry McAulliffe and Brian Moran, a well-known legislator and brother of Virginia Congressman Jim Moran.
But Deeds pulled it out and ended up crushing his better-funded opponents, in no small measure due to his 11th-hour endorsement from the Washington Post. But! Could Google have played a role? A spokesman pointed out his campaign ended with an online ad blast touting the WaPo endorsement and geo-targeted to reach 80% of voters in Northern Virginia and DC proper (to reach the many who live in Virginia but work in DC).
As this Google Trends graph shows, interest in Deeds started to heat up after the Post endorsement on May 22 and by June 22 he was getting twice as many searches as either of his opponents. Google says his last-minute blast "took advantage of the momentum that was building online."
Google is trying to make inroads in politics, and claims to be able to geo-target down to congressional district level. It's a feat made easier by the fact that the current modern template for campaigning--President Barack Obama--made such aggressive use of Google tools, like YouTube. (Obama also spent more on TV than any of his competition and his most useful digital tool was e-mail.)
This all sort of overlooks the fact that Deeds won in the rest of the state as well, where he didn't use the online blast. Further, all three candidates advertised on AdWords and had their own YouTube channels. Which makes it a win-win for Google regardless of the outcome.