MOUNT VERNON, Iowa — US President Barack Obama made rival Mitt Romney pay Wednesday for his awkward "binders full of women" comment that took on a life of its own after their feisty second debate.
During a heated Tuesday night showdown, Republican nominee Romney recalled consulting "binders full of women" when he was searching for qualified women to serve in his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts.
Much like Romney's "Big Bird" comments at the first debate two weeks earlier, thousands of people seized on the binders remark, and by Wednesday a "Binders Full of Women" Facebook page received 303,000 likes.
The phrase #bindersfullof women was trending on Twitter, and within minutes of the exchange someone created a blog -- http://bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com -- for fan art mocking the phrase.
Obama latched on to the oddball expression at his first post-debate campaign stop, in the political battleground of Iowa, where he used it to highlight his record on women's rights and his plan to hire thousands of maths teachers.
"I've got to tell you, we don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women, ready to learn and teach in these fields right now," Obama told a crowd at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
"And when young women graduate, they should get equal pay for equal work. That should be a simple question to answer," he said to loud applause, noting that the first bill he signed into law had boosted equal pay rules.
Perhaps aware of the power of a running gag like "Big Bird," which colored post-debate discussion for days after Romney pledged to cut funding to public television and the the popular character's show "Sesame Street," the Republican National Committee tried to co-opt the binders narrative.
RNC chairman Reince Priebus used it to criticize Obama for failing to lay out a plan for a second term, particularly on the issue of jobs.
"He's offered plenty of excuses, but he hasn't offered a plan, and that's what we're calling an empty binder," Priebus said.
The president spent part of the debate knocking Romney for failing to reveal how he would pay for his 20-percent tax cut, charging that the middle-class would end up footing the bill.
Kerry Healey, who served as Romney's lieutenant governor, noted that under Obama more than five million women are unemployed and the number of women in poverty has skyrocketed to a record 26 million.
Obama stressed in Iowa that the first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it simpler for women to file lawsuits against unequal pay.
And he mocked Romney for his claims that his economic plan would serve average Americans better than the president's.
"Let's recap what we learned last night," Obama said. "His tax plan doesn't add up. His jobs plan doesn't create jobs. His deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit.
"So Iowa, you know everybody here has heard of the New Deal? You've heard of the fair deal? You've heard of the square deal? Mitt Romney's trying to sell you a sketchy deal."