Debate #2: Crowley Wins It, Binders of Women New Mitt Meme

Candy Crowley was the biggest winner in last night’s Town Hall for her real time fact checking on Libya. She also asked follow up questions that forced the candidates to clarify their positions. She is, however, wrong in saying that it doesn’t matter that she’s a woman. It matters a lot that other women see they can aspire to moderate a presidential debate if that is their aspiration. And I suspect having a female role model gave permission, conscious or not, to female questioners who asked about such issues as equal pay.

President Obama snatched victory from the jaws of his first debate defeat, while Mitt Romney snatched defeat from the jaws of his previous winning performance by being, well, Romney.

The optics revealed two alpha males, each determined to prevail. However, Romney’s body language was stiff and menacing, reeking of privilege, whereas Obama seemed comfortable and nonthreatening in his leadership responsibility as president and commander-in-chief.  As Keli Goff observed, Romney not only appeared on the brink of losing his cool several times, but the way he brushed off Crowley was a turn off to women whom both candidates acknowledge are key to the election.

Obama skillfully skewered Romney on the economy with his one-liner characterizing Romney’s economic policy as a “one-point-plan” and saving the 47% moment to the end after Romney set his own trap.

Rivaling his Big Bird gaffe which rapidly became a social media meme, Romney stepped into the biggest pile of goo ever with his “binders of women” comment. Meant to puff up his creds with the ladies, poor Mitt only succeeded in showing

a) he himself apparently knew no qualified women despite having been in business for decades and

b) the Democrats are accurate in saying Romney lies; it turns out he didn’t request those binders.

The binders were prepared in advance of the election by a nonpartisan women’s coalition for whomever would become governor.

This has already spawned a “Binders Full of Women” tumblr and a whole slew of Democratic fundraising appeals playing off of Romney’s amazing tone deafness with the reality of women’s lives today. (Really? Only women want to go home for dinner with their families?) My favorite is the one pointing out that there are ballots full of women we can vote for this year.

I wanted Obama to say more, lots more, about the peril to women’s reproductive rights and health should Romney win, and to make more of a point that contraceptive coverage is in fact an economic issue. But there again, Romney managed to do himself in by dancing an inauthentic two-step as he tried to satisfy his anti-birth control base with their favorite code words while not frightening off the 99% of Americans who use birth control at some time during their lives.

So we go into the final debate with a tie score, each candidate having won one and lost one. The last lap of this election promises to continue to be a see-saw. Every vote cast will make a difference.

This post originally appeared in response to a Politico Arena question. Find the original publication here.

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.