During the 2012 election, Democrats excoriated GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney over his penchant for making gaffes -- effectively portraying him as an awkward, out-of-touch candidate who says the wrong things at the wrong time.
The narrative even dogged Romney during a trip abroad to Poland. Following another round of embarrassing headlines, the candidate was subjected to a reporter's now-infamous inquiry: "What about your gaffes?"
Four years later, amid what is shaping up to be a nasty showdown between GOP hopeful Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the media's thirst for gaffes has receded a bit.
As HuffPost's Jason Linkins wrote last month, Trump's "hallucinatory presence and constant stream of cuckoo-bananas balderdash have essentially made the gaffe entirely irrelevant." The brash businessman "doesn’t have momentary lapses. He is a constant, walking lapse of good sense, taste and judgment."
This, coupled with Trump's refusal to apologize for anything -- even when presented with video evidence of misconduct by his campaign or supporters -- has effectively neutered the gaffe outrage machine. Burned by prior mistaken prognoses, the media has learned to think twice before declaring the mogul's latest off-the-wall utterances as the beginning of "the end of Trump."
But Clinton hasn't gotten the same pass from the press -- a development that has not gone unnoticed by her likely opponent.
Trump, a self-professed foe of political correctness, railed against Clinton on Monday for saying she can handle men who go “off the reservation.”
“The Indians have gone wild on that statement,” he said, thus airing his own offensive comment in the process of condemning Clinton. “The Indians have said that that statement is a disastrous statement, and they want a retraction.”
A Clinton campaign staffer later tweeted that the Democrat "meant no disrespect to Native Americans. She wants this election to be about lifting people up, not tearing them down."
The dustup is just the latest in a series of Clinton flubs this year. At a CNN town hall meeting in March, the former secretary of state said "we are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business." The comments didn't land well in West Virginia this week, when a laid-off coal worker asked Clinton how "you can come in here and tell us how you’re going to be our friend."
Clinton apologized, saying her remarks were "totally out of context from what I meant, because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time."
She offered another mea culpa last month after praising the late Nancy Reagan for addressing the AIDS epidemic when "nobody would talk about it." As first lady, Reagan turned her back on LGBT people suffering from the virus.
Then there was Clinton's odd participation in a racially tinged joke by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about "CP time," which is slang for "colored people's time." The exchange drew a rebuke from President Barack Obama at Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner. Obama said "CP time" stands for "jokes white people should not make.”
It remains to be seen whether these gaffes will truly sway voters at the ballot box. But it is easy to imagine Trump fanning the flames at such moments in the general election -- either via Twitter or his viselike grip on cable news -- to drown out Clinton's message.
Democratic strategist and former Martin O'Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith told The Huffington Post that Clinton's gaffes "speak to how she's neither a natural communicator nor comfortable with the norms and lexicon of 21st-century progressives. It's not dissimilar from her use of the term 'illegal immigrants.'"
But, Smith added, Clinton maintains an advantage against a candidate like Trump, whose unfavorability numbers have reached near-historic levels.
"I don't think these types of comments will do her any favors in terms of 'winning' media cycles or endearing her to the skeptical left," Smith said. "But, against Trump, they won't do her lasting harm, either."
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.