For close watchers of the Drudge Report — like me — there's been an obvious trend of late: Martin O'Malley is getting A LOT of positive coverage.
This headline — and photo — above are from Drudge around 3 p.m. East Coast time Monday. They link to this Stu Rothenberg column that makes the case that Hillary Clinton is not inevitable for the nomination and that O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, "has the potential to become at least an interesting alternative to the former first lady and secretary of state, both to reporters and progressive activists."
Today's Drudge attention is part of a larger pro-O'Malley trend.
For example, here was O'Malley featured on Drudge on April 23.
The amount of attention Drudge is paying to O'Malley's is not commensurate with where the former governor stands in polling of the hypothetical Democratic primary race. The last time Post-ABC News polled the race — at the end of March — Clinton led the field with 66 percent while O'Malley took zero percent. Yes, zero percent. (Technically he received less than .5 percent of the vote.)
So, what gives? Why is Drudge treating O'Malley as though he is nipping at Clinton's heels when he is, according to the available data, receiving roughly the same amount of the vote I am currently?
The short answer is Clinton. Drudge's popularity as a link site is tied directly to the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the late 1990s. In 2007, Drudge, when he was still occasionally talking to the media, acknowledged just how central Clinton was to his site's success. He told New York Magazine:
“I need Hillary Clinton. You don’t get it. I need to be part of her world. That’s my bank. Like Leo DiCaprio has the environment and Al Gore has the environment and Jimmy Carter has anti-Americanism … I have Hillary.”
How Drudge, the most powerful aggregator of content for conservatives and one of the most powerful on the entire Internet, treats Clinton has varied widely throughout the years. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Drudge seemed sympathetic to Clinton's candidacy — and the Clinton team went out of its way to curry favor with Drudge by leaking him exclusive news tidbits.
As that campaign wore on, however, Drudge turned against Clinton — casting her as pursuing a quixotic and hopeless campaign to upend Barack Obama.
Since Clinton began to look like a presidential candidate again — so, about two years ago — Drudge's coverage of her has been almost exclusively negative; he has used his platform to regularly raise questions about her health and age with limited, at best, sourcing.
Now, Drudge has become an out-and-out advocate for O'Malley. Whether that's because of a dislike for Clinton or, more likely in my opinion, Drudge's belief that a contested race for Clinton is good for his business, it's clear that the attention being paid to O'Malley has a whole lot to do with Hillary.
Regardless of Drudge's real reason, which, like the man himself, is basically unknowable, his willingness to give O'Malley attention amounts, at some level, to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Drudge's reach — whether you like him or hate him — is vast. Here's Politico's Hadas Gold on it:
In 2014, DrudgeReport.com was the No. 1 site of referral traffic to the Daily Mail, CNN, Fox News, Roll Call, Breitbart, The New York Times, National Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and POLITICO, Intermarkets found.
Another unique aspect for Drudge is that 87 percent of its own traffic is from readers going directly to DrudgeReport.com and staying there for an average of 30 minutes.
And, it's not just that Drudge is deciding what pieces of content from the biggest media outlets in the country are the ones that get attention/traffic. It's also that he remains extremely influential as a sort of daily booking guide for cable television. Bookers from every network check Drudge religiously to see what stories he's chosen to feature. Often, those stories wind up getting airtime.
So, if Drudge promotes Martin O'Malley, then O'Malley will almost certainly get more attention from the media, which should translate to a higher level of interest — or at least recognition — among average voters.
How long will O'Malley's Drudge honeymoon last? Probably up until (or, really, if) Drudge succeeds in helping to make O'Malley a semi-credible Clinton challenger. At which point, if history is any guide, Drudge will turn on him.