Donald Trump has already won one important primary, and that’s why he’s not going anywhere any time soon.
Every time Donald Trump says or does something that would destroy the careers of most politicians, he maintains or even gains supporters. It seems that nothing he does erodes his support. His voters are loyal, that’s for sure.
If you want to understand the Trump phenomenon and the durability of his campaign, you have to understand his voters and how they get their information. Many on the left mistakenly think that Trump supporters are “low-information voters.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, it’s the opposite. They consume a lot of news and information, and almost all of it comes from their most trusted source -- Matt Drudge.
Matt Drudge is all in for Trump, and he is making sure that his millions of daily readers are getting the news.
Drudge, of course, is the owner of the popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report, a site that records approximately 2 million unique visitors a day with about 700 million page views per month. His readers are loyal, too. A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that the Drudge Report is among the most trusted news sources among conservatives, while most mainstream media outlets register a very high level of distrust from that group.
His loyal readers don’t trust information coming from other sources, and that allows Drudge to carefully curate links to articles that help to further his pro-Trump point of view among that audience. The most pro-Trump conservative news site is Breitbart.com. Breitbart is so pro-Trump that some have charged that the Breitbart company is being paid by Trump for favorable coverage. The truth is that Breitbart’s loyalty is more to Drudge than it is to Trump.
Breitbart was founded by the late Andrew Breitbart, who was the Drudge Report’s first employee. He founded the Breitbart news site after leaving the Drudge Report, but remained personally and professionally close to Drudge. The Breitbart site established itself quickly as the go-to news source for grass-roots anti-establishment conservatives, with an assist from Drudge who regularly posted Breitbart article links on the Drudge Report. Over the years, the Drudge Report has directed millions and millions of readers to Breitbart stories.
It’s not hard to find evidence of Drudge’s success in gaining his audience’s support of Trump. Trump has won every post-debate online poll of Drudge Report readers -- by a lot. Those polls attract hundreds of thousands of votes. After the last GOP debate more than 350,000 votes were registered and Donald Trump won 43 percent, followed by Ted Cruz with 27 percent. That audience loyalty is translating into strong support for Trump in the public scientific polls, too. Thanks to Drudge, Trump has led the GOP field nationally since July.
The loyalty and respect go both ways -- Trump goes out of his way to praise Drudge and mention his victories in the Drudge polls at every opportunity.
Why is Matt Drudge working to elect Donald Trump president? I haven’t asked him, but it’s not hard to connect the dots.
First, Drudge has a right-of-center point of view and describes himself as “more of a populist.” Trump’s campaign is clearly tapping into that conservative anti-establishment populism that’s been fueling the energy on the right in recent years. Drudge is primarily responsible for fanning the flames of that sentiment. He helped to build the Tea Party movement and is a constant thorn in the side of establishment Republicans in Washington.
The immigration issue is another example of Trump’s direct connection to Drudge. An opponent of immigration reform and “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, Drudge has made it his top priority in recent years. His coverage of that issue has been credited with killing the “Gang of Eight” legislation in Washington, and even leading to the primary defeat of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Of course, Trump has made immigration the centerpiece of his campaign and he credits best-selling author and conservative provocateur Ann Coulter’s new book, "Adios America," with shaping his view on that issue. Coulter and Drudge are close friends. In fact, they were seen sitting together in the audience at last week’s Republican debate on CNN. She even dedicated one of her many bestsellers to Drudge.
In addition to being anti-establishment and anti-immigration, Drudge is also famously anti-Clinton, both Bill and Hillary. The success of his site is a direct result of the attention he garnered when he broke the Monica Lewinsky story back in 1998. It put him on the political map. Since then, he’s unmatched in the distribution of anti-Clinton stories and rumors.
All of those things have enabled Drudge to cultivate the perfect audience for the time, and they are ready to engage in an epic battle. Matt Drudge’s dream 2016 presidential match-up is his anti-establishment, anti-immigration populist Donald Trump against his favorite target, Hillary Clinton. He’s going to do everything he can to make that dream come true by making sure that his sizable audience stays loyal to Donald Trump in the primary. So far, so good for Drudge.