Democrats had their hopes up Wednesday following Mitt Romney's ham-fisted attempt to paint himself as an equal-opportunity employer during his much-anticipated second presidential debate against Barack Obama.
As he answered a question on equal pay for equal work during Tuesday's heated town hall-style faceoff, the Republican presidential nominee said he had personal experience on the subject from his years as Massachusetts governor, when all of his cabinet applicants "seemed to be men."
"We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet," Romney said.
"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."
Along with the fact-checking scrutiny that greeted that comment, the Republican's poor choice of words also set off a giddy eruption of social media mockery, lighting up Twitter and spawning a website, a Facebook page and even a song.
Almost instantly, the hashtag #bindersfullofwomen was trending worldwide on Twitter. Twitter parody accounts @RomneyBinders and @Romneys_binder also swiftly emerged, amassing tens of thousands of followers within a few hours.
Vanity Fair magazine tweeted: "Newt Gingrich, watching from home: 'Binders Full of Women' is a great name for my memoir."
"Binder?" reads one post on bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com, which featured a photo of a beaming Romney. "I just met her!"
A photo of a particularly lascivious looking Bill Clinton also quickly made the rounds. The caption on the photo read: "Stop the debate. I want to know more about this binder."
American Bridge, meantime, a pro-Obama super PAC, announced it had bought the domain name BindersFullOfWomen.com to "educate voters on Romney's real record on issues important to women."
It's not the first time online wags have seized upon a political misstep to spur a wildly popular Internet meme during the 2012 race. Romney's "Big Bird" comments during the first presidential debate, in addition to Clint Eastwood's dressing down of an empty chair at the Republican National Convention, also became social media phenomena.
Jokes aside, Democrats are hoping Romney's latest maladroit comment will have more staying power, and might damage his reputation among women, in particular. Female voters outnumber men in the U.S. and are playing a pivotal role in this year's presidential campaign, with women's issues the focus of part of the debate on Tuesday night.
Paul Ryan, Romney's No. 2, tried to tamp down some of the ridicule on CBS News on Wednesday morning by lauding his running mate's commitment to women.
"All he simply meant was that he went out of his way to try to recruit qualified women to serve in his administration when he was governor," he said.
"That's really what he was saying. And by the way, he has an exceptional record of hiring women in very prominent positions in his administration and that's the point he was making."
Not true, apparently. By the end of Romney's term in Massachusetts, according to the University of Massachusetts Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, the number of women in high-ranking positions was slightly lower than it was before he took office. The women he did hire were mostly in junior cabinet positions.
There were also no female partners at Bain Capital when Romney headed the company in the 1980s and 1990s.
Romney's latest claim has also been debunked by several news outlets in Boston.
The former governor didn't ask for the binders, the Boston Globe reported. Instead, they were presented to him by a coalition of women's groups, just as they would have been to whomever had won the gubernatorial election in 2002.
"He didn't go out looking for these binders," said Carol Hardy-Fanta, a former official for MassGAP, the umbrella organization aimed at getting more women into high-ranking government positions in the state.
The binders were compiled by MassGAP prior to the election. Lists of potential applicants for a wide range of government jobs were amassed, to be handed over to whoever emerged victorious on election day.
Vice-President Joe Biden, meantime, wondered aloud on Wednesday why Romney, after so many years in corporate America, had trouble finding qualified female candidates for cabinet positions in Massachusetts.
"I've never had any problem when there's a job opening having as many women apply as men," Biden said in his own CBS interview.
"There's so many qualified women walking around in Boston, Massachusetts ... so many qualified women walking around every place in this country. The idea that you've got to go ask help to find one, I didn't quite understand what he was talking about. They are in abundance."