Reactions are immediate; spin is constant, pouncing on the opponent’s weakness or perceived flubs, claiming a million tiny victories and reinforcing the candidates’ talking points. Serious political junkies rely on the Twitter Political Index, which offers “a real-time look at voters’ moods, and scores which presidential candidate is trending up (and who is trending down) day to day.” By using a “sentiment analysis,” the index tracks how people feel about each candidate. In the pre-Twitter era, during the Clinton-Bush showdown of 1992, political-communication expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson described the trend toward “adlike” political campaigns and the way they were covered. Jamieson, head of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, wrote that reporters and analysts forsake their roles as political journalists when they become more like drama critics summing up performances. Now, Jamieson says, social media further the trend. “Because the media will track Twitter, this effect will be magnified. Campaigns will be trying to frame any ambiguous sentence as a gaffe,” she said. “There’s a contest between the campaigns and the public to control the feed. Instead of working from spin rooms, they try to push their views through Twitter,” she said. What is a gaffe? To those of us on the couch, the definition of a gaffe has relaxed and expanded. A gaffe can be a blooper such as Rick Perry’s brain freeze on point No. 3 after ticking off Nos. 1 and 2 of three points in this year’s primaries. But a simply flat performance can be blown up into a gaffe from the social-media gossips on the sidelines. Hints of nastiness, flashes of temper and perceived unpresidential casualness, in addition to obvious whoppers as defined by the fact-checkers, will be spotted on both sides and counted as gaffes. They will be pounced upon instantly in social-media chatter.