Obama Wins Debate, Romney Loses Meme War

WASHINGTON POST: “Binders Full of Women” is this week’s Big Bird. The minute Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said the phrase, social media exploded. And women’s issues, which were absent in the first debate on Oct. 3, were front and center Tuesday night as the first woman in 20 years – CNN’s Candy Crowley – moderated the town hall forum. Romney said the phrase while answering a question that first went to President Barack Obama about inequalities in the workplace and fair pay for women. Obama answered the question by focusing on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which he signed into law. Romney took a different route in answering the question. He talked about his time as Massachusetts governor and how he wanted to hire some women – and not all men – for his cabinet. “And – and so we – we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” Romney needed help finding women for posts. There were no women in at the top of the all-male Bain Capital. “Binders Full Of Women” was certainly an awkward phrase to say and it failed to even work as an answer to the question. Instead, it reminded people of a time when women wore girdles or women in China bound their feet as status symbol that allowed them to marry into money. For some, it sounded like a great idea for a Halloween costume. And like Big Bird, it became an instant meme. MORE

SALON: In the moment memed round the world, Mitt Romney said in last night’s debate that when he was governor of Massachusetts he had his staff compile “binders of women” for him to pour over in order to find qualified candidates for top jobs in his administrations. […] Romney 1) started looking for people to recruit, 2) realized they were all men, 3) asked his staff to find some qualified women, 4) enlisted some women’s groups in the effort, who brought him the “binders full of women,” some of whom he 5) hired. Unfortunately for Romney, that’s not how it actually went down. MassGAP, the women’s coalition responsible for the effort to get more women appointed to state government, gives the Washington Post a statement saying Romney has it wrong — they, and not Romney, initiated the process. The group also notes that female appointments actually fell off during Romney’s tenure. MORE

RELATED: More #BindersFullOf Women Memes

NPR: Obama had been widely criticized for his desultory and politically disastrous performance in the first debate, back on Oct. 3, which appears to have cost him his lead in the national polls. He came prepared for this fight, ready to defend his record and to put the knock on Romney at every opportunity. Obama remained focused, leaning forward eagerly in his chair while waiting for his turn to speak, and giving no quarter when it was his time to stand up and deliver. His mantra in response to many of Romney’s remarks was to say, “It just isn’t true.” After failing to do so in the first debate, Obama attacked his challenger about his career as an outsourcer of jobs and chided him for his infamous remarks about 47 percent of Americans believing themselves to be victims. Romney tried to fend off Obama’s complaints at one point by suggesting that Obama check the investments his own pension fund makes to see if he doesn’t also hold investments in Chinese companies. “I don’t look at my pension,” Obama said with a shrug. “It’s not as big as yours.” MORE

BUZZFEED: Barack Obama turned his administration’s worst foreign policy disaster into a dramatic victory in Tuesday’s debate when Mitt Romney sought to stretch the criticism of the Obama Administration’s handling of the incident. Romney’s criticism of Obama’s handling of the crisis met a stern lecture from Obama about politicizing the tragedy; and when Obama said he’d called the incident an act of terror from the start, Romney thought he saw an opening. The Republican attacked Obama for, he said, calling the attack on Benghazi a terrorist attack until two weeks later, only to be interrupted — and corrected — brusquely moderator Candy Crowley, who noted that Obama had used the phrase “acts of terror” in the Rose Garden immediately after the attack. MORE

DAILY BEAST: The president defused another toe-to-toe confrontation with humor. When Romney kept demanding, “Have you looked at your pension?”, Obama shot back: “I don’t look at my pension—it’s not as big as yours.” Romney was trying to make the point that Obama’s retirement fund also invested in China. A number of the audience questions in this town hall format subtly favored Obama by focusing on immigration, women’s rights, and Bush. One exception came in the final half hour, when a man asked about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Romney was mounting an effective critique of the administration’s shifting explanations of the fatal attack when he overstated the case—and was corrected by Crowley. “It took the president 14 days to call it an act of terror,” Romney said. Not true, Obama interjected: “Get the transcript.” “He did in fact, sir,” the CNN anchor told Romney, effectively defusing the attack.  MORE