#USelections2012: Big Bird, binders and bayonets

This Week: The Internet takes on the final debates as the candidates enter the final weeks in a dead heat.

October 23, 2012 11:13
3 minute read.
Obama and Romney laugh at charity dinner.

Obama, Romney laughing funny 390. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)


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US President Barack Obama joked this week that his energetic performance in the second debate was fueled by the long nap he had taken in the first. That energy proved its staying power in the third and final debate on Monday night as well.

Obama needed the lift after his sleepy first performance wiped out the persistent lead he held against Republican Mitt Romney, who has managed to put crucial swing states back into play and pull the polls into a dead heat in the weeks since.

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Were the elections decided based on Internet memes instead of strong substance, sharp rhetoric and presidential cool, however, Romney would likely lose.

Despite trouncing Obama in the first debate, Romney had to contend with drawn-out reactions to his Big Bird comment.

In a bid to close the crucial gender gap during the second debate at Hofstra University last Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor regaled the audience with a story of how he tried to find more females to fill his cabinet despite few applicants. “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.”

Quicker than you could say “Trapper Keeper,” a bevy of Tweets, memes and tumblr blogs popped up depicting said women, bound in binders.


The quip influenced voters who had already decided which candidate to back, but remained undecided on their Halloween costumes:

The memes even made their way to online retailer Amazon.com, where snarky politicos penned Romney-themed reviews for binders. “I was very disappointed when I ordered this and it arrived and it was NOT full of women. False advertising much?” said one.  Another read: “Does this Binder make my butt look big?”

In the final debate, which focused on foreign policy, Romney tried to shore up his defense credentials by blasting Obama on military spending. Citing Romney’s criticism that the Navy has fewer ships than in 1916, Obama pulled out a ready-made zinger, saying "Well Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets.”  He continued: “The nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. Ships that go underwater — nuclear submarines. So the question is not a game of battleship where we're counting ships."

#HorsesAndBayonets quickly trended as the top term on Twitter, briefly became the most-searched phrase on Google and inspired myriad short-lived memes.

Tweet of the week:

The pro-Obama nature of the memes may reflect the tech-savvy demographics of Obama’s supporters as much as Romney’s penchant for delivering meme-able lines, but the outcome of the election will not be decided online. While CNN polls gave Obama an edge in the final debates, the general election polls still show a very tight race. 

So does YouTube. An “Epic Rap Battle” parodying the candidates hit nearly 15 million views in one week.

Viral Video of the Week:

#USelections2012 offers weekly insight into the US presidential election through a social media lens, tracking candidates as they try to reach 270 electoral votes in 140 characters or less.

The writer is a Breaking News editor and blogger at
The Jerusalem Post. Read his blog ‘The Bottom Line’ here.

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