Romney's winning the Drudge primary

A survey of the last year’s worth of Drudge headlines found only one debatably negative reference to the 2002 Olympics CEO (“Bachmann outraises Romney”) — and a survey of aides to his rivals found a rising level of frustration at what one described as “favoritism” by one of the most important, if also one of the quirkiest, referees.

“One of the mysteries of Drudge is how he continues to be such a mystery. Never clear how or why he leans for or against candidates. But there is a lot of behind the scenes, very quiet and secretive mojo that goes on,” said Mark McKinnon, who, as a top adviser to Sen. John McCain in 2008, watched with dismay as Drudge gave top billing to — in particular — questions about the Arizonan’s health…

Frustrated rivals think they know the secret: a low-profile, hard-driving Republican operative named Matt Rhoades, who is now Romney’s campaign manager. Rhoades met Drudge, as POLITICO Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris and Mark Halperin reported in their book “The Way to Win,” when he became research director of the Republican National Committee and was introduced by his predecessor on a special trip to Miami. Rhoades has since been seen as a pipeline to the reclusive editor, who now has two veteran Washington reporters working on the site as well.

“No one has displaced Matt Rhoades in the Republican firmament as the go-to Drudge guy,” said a top GOP operative who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid angering the powerful online entrepreneur.