Social media winners and losers from Tuesday’s debate

Twitter buzzed about the candidates’ feistiness during the second presidential debate, but ultimately, four words took the Internet by storm: binders full of women.

A presidential debate broke out in what was supposed to be a community focused town hall discussion Tuesday night, firing up the world of social media after President Obama’s listless performance in the first debate two weeks ago.

Winners for this debate on Twitter were personal space, moderator Candy Crowley, binders, pensions, and, hopefully for the last time, the avian world and Big Bird.

The setup of the debate, as each candidate was supposed to sit down when the other was answering a question, made for an uncomfortable dance between the two candidates between questions. The tense exchanges were not lost on the world of Twitter. Some comments:

From The Washington Post‘s @TheFix: “The almost personal space violation makes my stomach churn.”

ABC News legal reporter Dan Abrams said: “I think every answer thus far has included an insult towards the other.”

Writer and blogger Maggie Serota tweeted: “I wanna get up and go to the bathroom, but I know the minute I walk away, the first punch is gonna get thrown.”

Jamie Kilstein ‏@jamiekilstein: “That got tense, but a fist fight would have been the only honest thing that could have happened tonight.”

Former Obama appointee and social media maven Katie Jacobs Stanton offered this tweet: “Welcome back, President Obama.”

The jury was split on moderator Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent. She seemed to manage the two candidates, but was unable to keep them from talking over each other, and over Crowley. At one point she jumped out of her moderator role to correct Gov. Mitt Romney’s statements about the attack on the US embassy in Libya. Some comments:

Comedian and journalist Mike Roe ‏@MikeRoe said: “Oh snap! Candy Crowley offering mid-debate fact check! It’s like she decided to do journalism for a minute.”

From Ebony magazine’s feed: “Candy Crowley is like ‘My name aint Jim Lehrer, son.'”

Tablet magazine publisher Jesse Oxfeld offered: “The real lesson of the first three debates: Men should not be allowed to moderate.”

When the discussion turned to gender equality, Romney referred to having received “binders full of women” from colleagues during his time in the private sector. Sensing a meme, a Tumblr account Binders Full of Women launched, while the Obama campaign snatched up and redirected it to a page about Romney’s tax plan. (It appears was also taken, although as of late Tuesday there was nothing on the site.) And of course, the feed @romneybinders was set up, gaining thousands of followers. From Twitter on the topic:

Fortune Feimster, a writer for television show “Chelsea Lately,” said: “I didn’t hear a single word Romney said until he mentioned a binder of women. I’m all ears now!

Dave Navarro of the band Jane’s Addiction said: “I was wondering where my ‘binder full of women’ went!”

Filmmaker B. Steves offered: “I’ve been reduced to just a woman in a binder? Seriously?”

Finally, from sport radio personality Bobby Bones: “Just googled ‘binders full of women.’ Now I have a computer virus.”

When the debate turned to personal investments by the candidates, Obama said Romney has investments in Chinese companies that make surveillance equipment enabling the communist government to spy on dissidents. Romney fired back asking if Obama had checked his pension lately, claiming Obama has investments in Chinese companies, too.

In an unscripted moment, Obama said: “I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it doesn’t take as long.” Twitter rightfully jumped on the topic:

Aisha Tyler, actress and comedian, tweeted: “I checked my pension, and I do not invest in Chinese companies. However, all my disposable income goes to iphones and nikes.”

Twitter regular Bruce Reyes-Chow said: “It is just me or did the boys at the #debate get dangerously close to a ‘How big is your pension?’ throw down?”

On the topic of energy policy, Romney claimed Obama let 25 dead birds get in the way of a drilling project. And when it came to the subject of fiscal policy, Obama said Romney’s tax plan is to cut funding to Big Bird. The best tweet on the topic came from editor-at-large at Mary Katherine Ham: “Big Bird’s political 15 minutes have got to be up soon, right?”

Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at

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