Barack Obama hasn't quite won the Democratic nomination for president, but an article in Politico on Monday suggests that he can already claim victory on another front: the race to be the darling of the influential Drudge Report.
Love him or hate him, Matt Drudge has an outsize influence on national political coverage. Or, as one Republican political operative put it more colorfully to Salon last year, the mainstream media "often run[s] like lemmings to whatever is up on Drudge."
It's often pretty easy to ascertain Drudge's sympathies just by paying a little attention to the tone of his coverage of certain candidates, not to mention which stories he hypes and which he ignores. During this campaign season, the Politico found, Drudge has highlighted stories and photos that portray Obama in a favorable light, such as a picture of the candidate's supporters with tears streaming down their faces at one of his rallies. The breathless headline read: "Screams and Tears of Delight." Meanwhile, Drudge has given relatively little play to negative stories about the Illinois senator, like the controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or the corruption trial of Obama supporter Tony Rezko.
The Politico thinks the coverage of John McCain and Hillary Clinton has been comparatively less positive, often focusing on age and health. For instance, Drudge displayed a photo of a black spot on McCain’s head across the Drudge Report last April, driving chatter about whether McCain had a recurrence of skin cancer (he did not).
"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," a dejected Clinton supporter told the Politico.
If Drudge maintains this position through November, it would be a stunning turnabout. He has delighted in skewering Democrats, from Bill Clinton to John Kerry, over the years. Speculation abounds about the reasons for Drudge's possible change of heart: Maybe he doesn't agree with McCain's politics, or he's playing to the current anti-Republican zeitgeist, or he simply believes Obama will drive the most traffic to his site.