WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton's would-be rival for the 2016 Democratic nomination is splashed all over a popular news site, a photo of him in a sleeveless T-shirt with muscles bulging while he strums a guitar, above adoring headlines like, "Hillary gets a rival," "I've never run a bad race," and "He's faced tough odds before — and won."
There's a bit of a catch.
All this excitement about former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley is on the Drudge Report — the wildly popular pro-Republican website that serves as a repository for news that tends to beat up on the Democratic party, rather than help the party pick its nominees.
And the anybody-but-Clinton sentiment appears strongest, at least at this point, in places like this rather than among the ranks of those who will actually be selecting the Democrats' 2016 candidate.
In the Democratic party, she's still seen as the inevitable nominee. An ongoing controversy about her parallel email system as secretary of state doesn't appear to have changed that.
When asked whether he'd try challenging her, the governor of California's response Wednesday amounted to: What's the point?
"(It) doesn't look like a fruitful use of my time," Jerry Brown told the Washington Post. "I would say she's extremely formidable and it doesn't appear that there’s anything that would block her path."
The statistical evidence of Clinton's dominance in the Democratic field is pure numerical hyperbole. The polls of Democratic respondents could still be off their margin of error — almost 15 times over — and she'd still be leading.
—Her lead over O'Malley is a healthy 75 percentage points, according to an NBC survey of Democrats this week. He might be famous now among Drudge Report readers, but 67 per cent of Democrats have never heard of him, according to the poll.
—She also had an edge of more than 30 per cent over Vice-President Joe Biden and progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Neither is expected to run.
—Name recognition: Eighty-nine per cent of respondents told Gallup they know her, and have an opinion of her. The vice-president got 78 per cent, and the next-closest possible rival — Warren who, again, has repeatedly said she's not running — got 41 per cent.
—Her favourability ratings are better than the entire Republican field, and current polls show her winning a head-to-head contest against any possible Republican in November 2016.
Then there's the mountain of money. One super-PAC alone has set a fundraising goal of $500 million, although it's struggling to hit its targets amid infighting among all the different groups jockeying for spots on the Clinton team.
O'Malley put a brave face on things this week, signalling in an interview on MSNBC his intention to campaign to Clinton's left.
He proposed reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, which for three generations kept commercial and investment banks separate — until the Clinton era. He said that regulation kept banks from gambling with people's money, wrecking the economy, and running roughshod over the common good.
At which point the host asked him about a phrase written this week about Clinton, which actually compared her to one of these new mega-banks.
Clinton, it was suggested, is now "too big to fail." Democrats have invested everything in her, and if she drops out she'd bring down not only the party's electoral prospects but also the career ambitions of the thousands of hangers-on and aspiring hangers-on angling for a spot on her team.
"Maybe that's the way it is today," O'Malley replied. "But our history as a party is one of always wanting to have robust discussions."
"Most years, there's the inevitable front-runner. And that inevitable front-runner is inevitable right up until he or she is no longer inevitable. So I think you're going to see a robust conversation in the Democratic party about how we restore our middle class."
Clinton challengers will inevitably draw parallels with 2008 — and make the case that she started out as a front-runner then, too — and lost.
There was a big difference in 2008: Barack Obama. A poll from exactly this period eight years ago had Clinton with a smaller lead (15 points), but Obama had a huge advantage that nobody else has this time: people were wildly enthusiastic about him.
Sixty-five per cent of Americans knew who Obama was in early 2007. His favourability rating was huge — with 23 per cent more people liking him than disliking him.
There is one constant: Back in 2007, the Drudge Report was also hammering Hillary, while plugging the prospects of this no-hope rookie senator from Illinois.
The Drudge folks eventually turned on Obama. They're remained consistent on Clinton.