In a binder

In a binder

Mitt Romney found it difficult to contend with a feistier Barack Obama in the second debate

The latest instalment of the spectacle that is the US presidential election conformed to the script — as expected,a more aggressive Barack Obama showed up for the second of three presidential debates and gave the Republican challenger a hard time. The debate — in a town hall format this time,thought to foster a more conversational atmosphere — was a combative event,as befits a close race where the candidates have serious disagreements on the role of the government in public and private life. After a soporific performance in the first debate,Obama supporters will be glad to note that insta-polls this time around gave him a lead of anywhere between 7-15 percentage points,arresting Romney’s momentum.

But just as in the last debate,it is a Romney statement that is dominating the post-debate conversation. If last time his threat to cut funding to Sesame Street and Big Bird was the line that launched a thousand memes,this time it was a phrase from his answer about equal employment. Romney patronisingly described how he,as Massachusetts governor,tried to find qualified women to fill his cabinet and how his “concerted effort” in that direction led him to “women’s groups” that gave him “binders full

of women”.

Perhaps spoiled by Romney’s past gaffes,an expectant internet grabbed the opportunity with both metaphorical hands and before the hour was out,“binders full of women” became a meme with its own Twitter handle (@Romneybinders has over 30,000 followers),a Tumblr and a Facebook page that has 2,00,000 likes. Romney one-upped himself; this time he didn’t need a Muppet to create a pop culture phenomenon. His tone-deafness and condescension was enough.