Friday, October 31, 2008

Wag the Blog: Is Drudge Still Relevant?

No Fix post in recent memory has provoked the sort of reaction -- some of it good, but mostly bad -- generated by the two pieces we did on the influence of Matt Drudge (and his eponymous Drudge Report).

The first -- entitled "How Matt Drudge Rules the (Political) World" -- detailed Drudge's influence over the campaign narrative during the Democratic primary season; the second -- "Drudgeology 101" -- sought to explain why Drudge's coverage, which at one time has been so favorable to Barack Obama, had begun to turn against the Illinois senator.

In the former post, we led with this idea: "There's little debate that Matt Drudge and his eponymous website sit at the junction of politics and journalism in the modern media age."

But, over the last few weeks, some members of the political chattering class have begun to question whether Matt Drudge is as powerful as he once was.

To wit:
  • On Monday, Drudge posted a link to this You Tube clip featuring an Obama radio interview from 2001 with a headline that blared: "2001 OBAMA: TRAGEDY THAT 'REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH' NOT PURSUED BY SUPREME COURT."
  • Early on Tuesday, Drudge used a comic book picture of Obama over a headline that read: "ABCCBSNBCNYTLATWSJCNNMSNBCAPREUTERSAFPPOLITICOFTTIMEWASHPOSTNEWSWEEK: CAN THEY ALL BE WRONG?" It linked to this column on media bias by technology writer Michael Malone.
  • Later in the day, Drudge led his site for hours with a picture of a smiling Obama giving the "thumbs up" over a banner headline reading: "OBAMA SAYS 'DAY OFF' WORK FOR ELECTION."
  • Then on Wednesday, Drudge featured an image of one of Gallup's likely voter models that showed Obama at 49 percent and McCain at 47 percent with the headline: "TRICK OR TREAT: GALLUP SAYS OBAMA +2."

It's clear from this series of posts that Drudge believes the media is missing a John McCain comeback, and he is bound and determined to push the idea that Obama is far from a sure thing.

Mark Halperin, a veteran Drudgeologist and the editor of the indispensable Page at, recently took note of the content shift by Drudge arguing: "Follows recent pattern of posting things that seem not to help Obama -- including Biden's Orlando TV interview, the closer sets of polling data and more."

At issue is whether Drudge who, inarguably did more to frame Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as an out-of-touch elitist than any other major player in the 2004 election (Don't believe us? Go read "The Way To Win"), has lost some of his ability to influence the message of the campaign.

Phil Singer, former deputy communications director for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid, believes he has.

In a post headlined "Is Drudge Losing His Mojo," Singer cites the same examples we have above and concludes:

"Lately it seems that the 'Roger Ailes of the Internet' isn't packing the kind of heat that made him famous. I'm not on the trail but it seems like reporters aren't chasing every item on Drudge as hard as they once did."

For today's Wag the Blog question, we want to know whether you agree or disagree with Singer's contention. Is Drudge less able to influence the daily dialogue of the campaign than he was even a few months ago? Or is he still the most potent news driver going? Why?

The most thoughtful/insightful comments will be featured in a Fix post of their own later this week. To qualify, all thoughts must be made in the comments section below not emailed directly to The Fix.

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