If the 2008 election was the first grassroots get out the vote campaign (in recent memory) than 2012 was the first social media campaign. Since the dawn of the electoral process candidates (and their supporters) have said outrageous things. These statements, either patently false or a scathing truth about a candidate’s character, would mostly go unnoticed. Conversations or speeches made at fundraisers, or other “invitation-only” events might leak out but rarely with any consequence. Candidates making outrageous (if not flat out insane) misinformed statements regarding reproductive biology might be quoted in local media. If the statement or story was sensational enough perhaps national media would have picked up the story. But there was always still a chance that a whispered conversation or two might be able to quash a story.
But today all bets are off and there are few places to hide. Advances in hardware and software have created an everyman press corps. Audio and visual recording can be made with phones. Social media has created a souped-up uber-grapevine. The more outrageous the statement the higher it will trend. A statement made in public, which might have been reported in print, now can become a catchphrase/punchline in 24 hours.
Tradition media is influenced by all of this. Every candidate and his or her cadre of spin machinists know this. Which means that when a candidate utters something worthy of a hardcore Scooby Doo “huh?” reaction we can only guess what he/she has been trained not to say.