Who controls today’s Republican Party? Some point to the billionaire Koch brothers. Others have nominated Fox News chief Roger Ailes. According to a pair of recent reports, however, the most influential person in GOP politics is a reclusive 48-year-old named Matthew Drudge—the blissfully closeted proprietor of the Drudge Report.
Just as there are the real primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, whose voting is nearly a year away but whose voters candidates are already courting, and just as there is the so-called Money Primary, which involves the seeking out of the money people who can bankroll such a venture, there is the “The Drudge Primary”—the battle to curry favor with the Internet's most notorious aggregator. ...
“You do not pick a fight with Matt Drudge,” said Rick Tyler, a Gingrich campaign spokesman in 2012, who said that all of his entreaties to the blogger went unanswered. “You will lose. There is no point.”
2016 is shaping up as a race in which [Matt Drudge] will have as much—and, likely, more—influence than he’s ever had before. With such a crowded Republican field, the candidate—or candidates—that Drudge chooses to favor will benefit. And those who he turns negative on will rue the day and wonder what they could have or should have done differently. All of the Republican campaigns (and maybe even the Clinton campaign) will fear him—and have a strategy on how to deal with him. That, in my book, is real influence. And Drudge has it.
(Drudge’s influence, Cillizza adds, comes from his deliberate lack of skepticism—making him the perfect receptacle for dubious stories planted by Republican operatives: “He’s more likely to simply take it and post it rather than looking for where the holes are—as a more mainstream site would do.” This is a good place to note that Drudge is currently linking to Cillizza’s column.)
Anyway, is Drudge really this powerful? Almost certainly not. His long-time favorite, Mitt Romney, lost the Republican primary to John McCain in 2008. Romney did win the primary four years later—but only thanks to the world-historical incompetence of his rivals. And then he promptly lost the presidential election to Barack Obama.
Then again, Drudge’s actual influence is much less noteworthy than his perceived influence among political operatives and certain media outlets who rely on his site for traffic. Because here is what those operatives and outlets seem to believe: This middle-aged racist gay guy who rarely appears in public somehow helms the Republican Party using a website designed in 1997.
Wouldn’t that be something?
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