By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thanks to Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney's debate comment that he received "binders full of women" when he was Massachusetts governor and seeking cabinet job candidates, the utilitarian office staple has gone viral.
A Facebook page dedicated to the awkward phrase attracted almost 350,000 "likes" within two days of the debate between Romney and Democratic President Barack Obama on Tuesday night.
Mock Twitter accounts were created while the candidates were still on stage. One, @RomneyBinders, had nearly 34,000 followers. A Tumblr blog collected dozens of "binder" slogans and images within a few hours - and was still growing.
Some of the Internet memes - "Keep Calm and Put Women in Binders," a picture of a white binder with a "Women for Obama" image, and a photo of Romney that reads "Some of my best friends are binders full of women" - were more obvious than others.
Amazon.com's product reviews for two- and three-ring binders were flooded with snarky comments - and thousands more indications that visitors found the faux reviews "helpful."
"This binder is 28 percent cheaper than the Male version, and works a lot better!" wrote "M.R," referring to pay equity for women, the issue that prompted Romney's comment. Studies show that American women earn 77 cents per dollar paid to men.
Women dressed in giant cardboard "binders" to protest Republican policies.
The media fact-checked the comment and found Romney's anecdote wanting - the research showed he did not approach women's groups asking for resumes; a women's group approached him.
THE NEW BIG BIRD?
The Republicans tried to make the best of things.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire talked about "Obama's empty binder second-term agenda" on a conference call with reporters the day after the debate. Ayotte contended that the Democrats' use of the term was demeaning to women.
But the Democrats knew a good thing when they saw it - and did all they could to run with the metaphor.
Obama added Big Bird to his stump speech after Romney mentioned the children's television character as he promised to cut funding for public broadcasting during their first debate on October 3.
Now he talks about binders.
"We want our sons to thrive in math and science and engineering, but we also want our daughters to thrive, too," he told a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday.
"You see, we don't have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women who can learn and excel in these fields right now. And when these young women graduate, I want them to receive equal pay for equal work."
American Bridge, a pro-Obama Super PAC, bought the Internet address BindersFullofWomen.com and had it up and running as a website focused on Romney's record on women's issues by 5 a.m. the morning after the debate.
Late-night comedy also chimed in.
Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show," offered alternative names for Romney's binder. "Book of Broads" was his safe-for-work suggestion.
Stewart and the president may discuss the issue in person soon. Obama is scheduled to be the guest on Stewart's popular Comedy Central cable television show on Thursday night.
(Editing by Karey Wutkowski and Jan Paschal)