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Internet gossip monger Matt Drudge may have little use or regard for the truth but he remains a power player in political circles — so much in fact that even the campaign of Hillary Clinton may be using his web site to leak stories and gain an edge on the competition.
This comes as a surprise to some observers who remember the large role Drudge played in outing the Monica Lewinsky scandal during Bill Clinton’s scandal-scarred Presidency.
Like him or not, Drudge is a player in a political world where the Internet’s influence grows with each election cycle.
Reports Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times:
As Senator Barack Obama prepared to give a major speech on Iraq one morning a few weeks ago, a flashing red-siren alert went up on the Drudge Report Web site. It read, “Queen of the Quarter: Hillary Crushes Obama in Surprise Fund-Raising Surge,” and, “$27 Million, Sources Tell Drudge Report.”
Within minutes, the Drudge site had injected Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fund-raising success into the day’s political news on the Internet and cable television. It did not halt coverage of Mr. Obama’s speech or his criticism of her vote to authorize the war in 2002, but along the front lines of the campaign — the hourly, intensely fought effort to capture the news cycle or deny ownership of it to the other side — it was a telling assault.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides declined to discuss how the Drudge Report got access to her latest fund-raising figures nearly 20 minutes before the official announcement went to supporters. But it was a prime example of a development that has surprised much of the political world: Mrs. Clinton is learning to play nice with the Drudge Report and the powerful, elusive and conservative-leaning man behind it.
That man, Matt Drudge, came to national prominence a decade ago as a nemesis of the Clintons who used the Web to peddle, gleefully, the latest news and rumor generated by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
That people in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign orbit would tip off the Drudge Report to its fund-raising numbers is in part a reflection of her pragmatic approach to dealing with potential enemies, like Newt Gingrich or Rupert Murdoch. But it also speaks to the enduring power of the Drudge Report, which mixes original reporting with links to newspaper, Internet or television reports far and wide.
The site is a potent combination of real scoops, gossip and innuendo aimed at Mr. Drudge’s targets of choice — some of it delivered with no apparent effort to determine its truth, as politicians of all stripes have discovered at times.
Aides in both parties acknowledge working harder than ever to get favorable coverage for their candidates — or unfavorable coverage of competitors — onto the Drudge Report’s home page, knowing that television producers, radio talk show hosts and newspaper reporters view it as a bulletin board for the latest news and gossip.