Drudge drives traffic, attention, donations to candidates

Jeff Winkler Contributor
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In a tight midterm campaign season full of neck-and-neck races in which even the smallest benefit can change a loss to a win, Matt Drudge is once again putting his stamp on the election.

A link on the Drudge Report will draw attention to a race that might otherwise not be on the mind of the public. With that attention often comes campaign contributions and votes. In this cycle, Drudge is again not only driving traffic but also opinion.

“I don’t want to say he’s the ultimate rainmaker for positive earned media, but he kind of is when you get this close to election day,” a consultant for a popular Tea Party candidate told The Daily Caller. “It gets your message out and appeals to out-of-state donors in a way robocalls and traditional fundraisers can’t.”

The consultant argued that “every effective communications adviser should strive to get placement on sites like Drudge,” adding that such a link draws national attention to a candidate and allows that candidate to get their message out.

“When those two things come together, the checks tend to start rolling in if the candidate can maintain momentum,” the consultant said.

First-time candidate Krisiti Noem made her debut appearance on Drudge earlier this month, and the campaign immediately reaped the rewards, taking in $15,000 in online contributions, campaign manager Josh Shields said.

“It was literally the 24 hours after the Drudge link,” said Shields, who noted that it was the biggest surge in online contributions the campaign had seen. “It definitely ranks up there as far as small contributions, either mail or internet.”

The Noem campaign also saw a huge increase in online traffic and boosted the number of Facebook fans by more than 10 percent.

The Drudge link, however, means more than just lining the pockets of political campaigns, said George Mason University Communications Professor Stephen Farnsworth. It also means attention from the mainstream media. Beltway journalists, who watch the Drudge Report as religiously as conservative spectators, find stories and candidates to follow, he said.

Just as candidates like the attention a Drudge link brings to their campaign, journalists like the traffic that Drudge can bring. Therefore, they are more likely to cover a race that is already on Drudge’s radar.

“A lot of journalists in Washington watch the Drudge Report,” Farnsworth said, noting that reporters are also very aware of the traffic their own stories generates and that a Drudge hit can improve those numbers greatly.

Political analyst Larry Sabato said the benefits of a Drudge link outperform those that any single columnist or pundit could provide because there is already a built-in group ready to offer support.

“When George Will wrote that glowing column for Tim Pawlenty, it gave Pawlenty a whole new stage,” said Sabato. It’s similar to a Drudge link, he added, except that the positively charged links are all that has to be said. The endorsement after that speaks for itself.

Farnsworth pointed out that Drudge’s influence requires nothing more than a flashing headline on a computer screen.

“Rarely has a page with such low overhead had such a huge influence on politics,” said Farnsworth.