Campaign Trail

Election 2012 winner: The Internet meme

Daryl Paranada Oct 17, 2012

If you were tweeting along with last night’s presidential debate or following it on Facebook, then you had a front-row seat for the latest election meme to hit the Internet: Binders full of women.

The awkward phrase came from presidential hopeful Mitt Romney while he was answering a question about equal pay for women, and describing his record on hiring women to work in his cabinet while he was governor of Massachusetts: “I went to a number of women’s groups, and said ‘can you help us find folks.’ And they brought whole us binders full of women.”

Within minutes, the phrase was trending on Twitter and had earned its very own Tumblr microblog, Twitter hashtag, and Facebook page — the latter of which has already captured more than 300,ooo fans (as of press time).

If the 2012 election season is remembered for one thing, it will be the Internet memes it inspired — which have spread equally as fast and wide. In a story today on Marketplace, we take a look at the economy of Internet memes. Below, we measure some of the big winners as illustrated through the volume of Google searches for the terms.

Trending: Paul Ryan Abs

When Gov. Romney announced Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan as his running mate, it seemed people were interested in more than just his body of political work. They wanted to know more about his body, including his addiction to the workout routine P90X. The media latched on and so did the Internet.

Trending: Empty chair

Whose day did Clint Eastwood make during his speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.? The creators of all those election memes. Eastwood’s speech featured a now-infamous prop: “I’ve got Mr Obama sitting here… I was just going to ask him a couple questions.” Of course, the president wasn’t there — it was just an empty chair. And with his speech, Eastwood provided one of the most-talked about moments to emerge from the final night of the RNC.

Trending: 47%

On September 17, Mother Jones released excerpts from a video showing Mitt Romney speaking at a private fundraiser saying, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement. The government should give it to them.”

Trending: Big Bird

During the first presidential debate Mitt Romney ruffled a few feathers when he told debate moderator Jim Lehrer, executive producer for PBS NewsHour: “I’m sorry Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I actually love Big Bird. I like you too, but I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.” The assault on PBS funding — and Big Bird — led to a flood of Internet memes. Even Marketplace obliged with a report that examined where each of the Sesame Street characters fit on the 99% scale.

Trending: Laughing Joe Biden

During the VP debate, many in the media focused on Vice President Joe Biden’s laughing and smirking. His behavior generated some amusing online content, including a few animated gifs, the Twitter handle @LaughingJoeBiden, and hashtags like #malarkey and #thingsthatmakejoebidenlaugh.

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