Donald Trump is riding high in conservative Republican circles, thanks in part to the wall-to-wall coverage center-right Newsmax, the national magazine and heavily-trafficked website, is giving to his upstart and popular presidential candidacy.
Need proof? Time's story on Trump has The Apprentice host waving a copy of a Newsmax poll showing him in the lead and says Trump speaks regularly to conservative "force" Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy. And the liberal media watchdog Media Matters has suggested that the two are in cahoots.
So is there a Trump-Newsmax conspiracy? "Yes," cheers Ruddy. "Trump realizes the great potential of Newsmax and has been using it very adroitly. We're well aware he's using it, happy he's using it" says Ruddy from the Newsmax HQ in Florida.
"He's been really responsive to our news team here," says Ruddy, who calls Trump a "friend."
Recently, the potential 2012 GOP primary candidate dropped by Newsmax's West Palm Beach HQ and even chose it as the place to reveal his American birth certificate, part of his effort to call into question President Obama's birthplace. Ruddy doesn't back the birther movement and says he told Trump that he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.
Media Matters last week put a spotlight on the news site's coverage of Trump, calling it an "early and enthusiastic promoter of Trump's presidential ambitions."
Ruddy has no problem with that description. "Media Matters is right," he says.
But much more than Trump, says Ruddy, Newsmax is pushing all the leading candidates in the GOP field who see his site as a must-have interview. Those who've made the pilgrimage include Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and Mike Huckabee.
"I think that we're having an impact that no other media organization can have right now. Really smart political candidates realize that on the path to 2012, we are key," said Ruddy.
"We are the platform for any Republican candidate that wants to articulate a vision to the American people and the Republican Party, and Trump is articulating a vision and idea and he's catching fire," says Ruddy. "He is offering some views that people aren't hearing. When people say they want Donald Trump, they are saying they want something different, and that means it could be something different three months down the road. But right now he's touching a nerve."
Newsmax has also won national attention for its Trump coverage because it's been advertising a Trump poll on several sites. So far some 800,000 have voted online. But Ruddy says that there is no formal or business relationship with Trump. "He did ask if he could change the name of the place to 'Trumpmax' I said no," joked Ruddy. "To us it's just a great news story in a very boring Republican Primary right now."