'Binders full of women' remark goes viral
With polls suggesting women voters were shifting their support to Mitt Romney, Barack Obama made an aggressive pitch to them in last night's debate but it was Romney's reference to 'binders full of women' that caught the web's attention.
Mr Obama hit hard on issues like equal pay for women and contraception and abortion rights in the second debate ahead of the presidential election. The topics did not come up in the first debate on October 3rd, when Mr Romney outshone the Democratic president.
Mr Romney has gained ground on Mr Obama in opinion polls since the first head-to-head and took the lead in many surveys. Reuters/Ipsos polling data showed the Democrat's support slipping among women, particularly married women.
Fifty-nine per cent of married white women backed Mr Romney for president, versus only 30.4 per cent who picked Mr Obama, according to data for the week ending October 14th.
That was a move of around eight points in Mr Romney's favour since before the first debate. With strong support among women essential to his hopes of winning re-election, Mr Obama devoted much of the second debate toward shoring up their support.
He mentioned the women's health organisation Planned Parenthood five times. He stressed that Mr Romney had promised to defund the organisation, which provides contraception and abortions, but also basic services like cancer screenings. Mr Romney hit back by saying that he would help women, and all Americans, by improving the sputtering economy.
But the Republican offered fewer specifics on women's issues than Mr Obama and at times seemed to stumble.
"Any ground that Mitt Romney gained over the last week or week and a half, he lost tonight," said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University. "Barack Obama was incredibly strong on appealing to women and casting doubt on Mitt Romney's statements."
One of the night's most memorable moments came when Mr Romney was asked how he would ensure pay equity for women. He answered by recalling how, as governor of Massachusetts, he had been concerned when all of the applicants for his cabinet were men.
"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," Mr Romney said.
Mr Romney's somewhat awkward response lit up social media. The user name @RomneyBinders got its own Twitter account, and attracted more than 31,000 followers less than an hour after the debate ended. The hashtag #bindersfullofwomen was one of the 10 most common on the social media service.
Democrats said Mr Romney's answer seemed to show he had few women in his inner circle, and the candidate did not directly address the pay equality issue.