Matt Drudge is currently running a "poll" on his website ... that asks readers to choose their preferred 2016 Republican presidential candidate. As of 3:15 pm eastern time, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was dominating with 47 percent (more than 84,000 votes) followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 14 percent and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 13 percent. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has been anointed by the party establishment as the frontrunner in the race, takes 5 percent....Drudge was awfully good to Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign -- even in mid-2011 it was clear that Romney was winning the "Drudge primary," and in March 2012, when Romney finally secured the nomination, Drudge's front page was almost Riefenstahlian:
So far in this cycle, Drudge has been hard on Bush (highlighting lots of stories that suggest the former Florida governor isn't all that conservative) and quite kind to Walker. Here's the current lead of the site:
Obviously, Drudge's fondness for Romney didn't help him in November. But it sure didn't hurt in the primaries. And now it seems that Walker is Drudge's guy and Jeb Bush is Drudge's sworn enemy, just as Gingrich and Santorum were targets of Drudge attacks in 2012.
This reaffirms my sense that Walker, Droopy Dog affect notwithstanding, is going to be a tough guy to beat. One additional reason: His team plays hardball. I'm seeing reports that there's now strong circumstantial evidence of a payment from a Walker crony to James O'Keefe, the gotcha videographer, just before O'Keefe happened to goad state senate president Mike Ellis, a Republican but a sometime Walker foe, into saying embarrassing things on camera, with the result that the shamed Ellis chose not to run for reelection. This is being touted as a story that hurts Walker, but he got what he wanted, and what are the odds that he'll pay a price for this?
He's not likely to pay a price for that or anything else if he succeeds in his efforts to change the way the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is chosen. A constitutional amendment to make the change has now passed both houses of the Rep;ublican-dominated Wisconsin legislature and will be put up for a vote in an off-cycle election on April 7, at which it's safe to predict that Democratic voters will, as usual, not show up. If the change happens, it's expected to remove current chief justice Shirley Abrahamsohn, a liberal who's made trouble for Walker. The court, in all likelihood, will then be run by a conservative judge, Pat Roggensack. That will be the effective end of the case stemming from a so-called John Doe investigation into charges that Walker's campaign operation has illegally coordinated its efforts with those of deep-pocketed national right-wing groups, if only because the right-wing judges on the court rely heavily on cash from precisely those groups to get reelected.
So, yeah, Walker looks like a nebbish, but he's got some muscle behind him. Watch out for him.
(O'Keefe story via Yastreblyansky. Abrahamsohn story via Charlie Pierce.)