Thanks to the internet, Denver had "Big Bird."
Tampa had "Invisible Obama."
So what would Hofstra bring?
"Binders full of women," apparently.
It was a moment at Tuesday's town hall debate that began as a strong one for Republican candidate Mitt Romney as he spoke effectively about wanting to promote gender equality in forming his cabinet as governor of Massachusetts:
And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"
ROMNEY: 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.
Almost instantly, "binders full of women" became a mega-hit search term, spawning a Tumblr, several Facebook pages (including one with more than 280,000 likes at publication), and satiric Twitter accounts @RomneyBinders and @Romneys_Binder.
The Obama campaign, as they did with Big Bird, jumped on the surge in social interest. The campaign purchased a promoted tweet attached to the phrase "binders full of women," and continued to run with it Wednesday morning.
Not to be left out, GOP committee chairman Reince Priebus swatted back with his own take on the metaphor:
President Obama’s plan for a 2nd term is an #EmptyBinder – a President without a plan to turn his failed policies around.— Reince Priebus (@Reince) October 17, 2012
RNC call: "Chairman Priebus and Senator Ayotte will talk about Obama’s empty binder second term agenda."— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) October 17, 2012
Getting somewhat less attention, although perhaps more salient, is a story that surfaced on the Boston Phoenix website shortly after the end of the debate.
In it, David Bernstein writes, simply, "Hey, I know about that binder! And guess what -- Mitt Romney was lying about it."
What actually happened was that in 2002 -- prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration -- a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.
They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.
Further, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post writes that Liz Levin, the chair of MassGAP, confirms Bernstein's take.
In 2002, when Romney was running for governor, Levin, who is now president of a management consulting company in Massachusetts, chaired a group called MassGAP. It was set up that year with the goal of increasing the number of women in government.
Levin, an Obama supporter, says MassGAP and other groups were the ones who first reached out to the gubernatorial candidates to get them to commit to hiring more women. She says Romney signed their pledge — as a candidate — and agreed to work with the groups.
At that time, the groups, on their own, were compiling lists of qualified female candidates for positions in state government, she says. After he was elected governor, in November of 2002, the groups took him a notebook full of those candidates.
“He did not initiate our project,” Levin says. “He was the recipient of a project we put together.”
Although Levin commended Romney's willingness to participate with the group and the increase in the number of women in Massachusetts government, by the time he left office, women's participation had slid down again.