CNN couldn't stop Donald Trump. Neither could Fox News.
Some of the nation's most influential conservatives, from Glenn Beck to Bill Kristol, were powerless. Karl Rove and the Bush family had no effect. Scandal after scandal failed to put a chink in his armor.
And the 16 other GOP contenders, comprising some of the party's brightest and budding stars, proved to be impotent.
But some observers say that one man may have had the power to prevent Donald Trump's accession within the Republican Party: Matt Drudge....
Drudge does not host any content of his own on his website. Instead, he simply writes headlines and links out to stories from around the web, providing the beneficiary with high volumes of readers.
In fact, Drudge was the top traffic referrer to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and other news outlets in 2015, according to a Vocativ report. The report said the site accounted for a staggering 52% of referral traffic to the Associated Press.
As Ziegler wrote:
"[B]ecause of the enormous traffic and attention that a well-placed Drudge link can bring, when it becomes clear what narrative Matt is favoring, a literal 'market' is created for stories which fit that storyline so that they might be linked on the Drudge Report. For instance, it is my strong belief that, if Drudge had not gotten on the Trump bandwagon, Breitbart.com would never have so overtly done so, because they wouldn't have had the same financial/traffic incentives."
Ziegler concluded that Drudge is, in effect, an assignment editor for the news media, particularly outlets that lean or are outright conservative.
And in 2016, Drudge made it known that he was assigning only pro-Trump stories. He rewarded those who authored stories favorable to the real-estate mogul with frequent links while he simultaneously discouraged those critical of the Manhattan billionaire by blacklisting them from his page.
The message sent to journalists was simple: If you want Drudge traffic, then cover the news through a pro-Trump lens.