Monday, June 02, 2008
Drudge trumpeting Barack Obama.....Sweet Jesus
Drudge Report keeps campaigns guessing
May 19 was a fairly typical day in the recent life of the Drudge Report.
There was a breathtaking picture of Sen. Barack Obama’s rally in Portland, Ore., framed by the words “AS FAR AS CAMERA'S EYE CAN SEE … THE OBAMA MASS.”
And there was thinly veiled mockery of two other candidates: “Clinton Sits Through Sermon About Adultery,” was one headline. “State GOP chair: McCain ‘kind of like Jesus,’” was another, closely followed by “McCain’s national finance co-chair exits over lobbyist ties …”
The day, and the weeks before and since, capture what may be the most striking new feature of the 2008 media landscape. Matt Drudge has upended the conventional wisdom that he and his powerful online vehicle are stalwarts of the conservative message machine.
After skewering Al Gore and lampooning John Kerry, he’s emerged as an unreliable ally for the GOP, while trumpeting Obama’s victories and shrugging at his scandals.
“It’s clear to us that Barack Obama has won the Drudge Primary, and it's one of the most important primaries in this process,” conceded a senior aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who also acknowledged that Drudge’s treatment of Obama could make the Illinois senator more electable in November.
Now, as Obama and Sen. John McCain look toward the fall, Drudge has emerged unexpectedly as more of a threat to the Republican than to the Democrat. This, combined with the rise of left-leaning sites such as TalkingPointsMemo.com and HuffingtonPost.com — both of which have proved effective in promoting and amplifying a Democratic message — reflects a major shift from the last two presidential elections, a matter of open alarm to Republican strategists and surprised satisfaction to Democrats.
“The MSM is already sending love letters to Obama,” said a GOP operative who worked for the Bush-Cheney reelection. “That’s something that has traditionally been countered on the Republican side with talk radio, blogs to a lesser degree but especially Drudge. If those tools are not part of the Republican vehicle for message delivery, that’s crippling.”
The Drudge Report is no ordinary compendium of news stories. It is a heavily trafficked gateway to all corners of the Internet, a portal composed of links largely to breaking news from traditional media like The New York Times (as well as newer entrants like Politico). Most of the content is without any obvious ideological attachment. But operatives of both parties have long believed that his choice of links — along with occasional posts of Drudge's own reporting — have reflected a rightward tilt, and they assumed a preference for Republican candidates.
Drudge himself is reviled by many on the left, but his news instincts are undeniable — and he has an uncanny ability to drive the national conversation with what he chooses to highlight on his site.
Now, while his links tend to stress the energy and scale of the Obama phenomenon, he has emphasized a particularly damaging aspect of McCain’s candidacy: his age.
Age and health are common features on the Drudge Report — everything from Hillary Clinton’s coughing (“Health Scare!”) to people with obscure diseases gets a headline — and McCain has fallen victim to this obsession. In April of last year, Drudge featured an image of a dark spot on the head of the Republican candidate, who had previously been treated for skin cancer, spurring a round of media inquiries and speculation on a possible recurrence.
The campaign later said McCain had hit his head on a plane.