President Obama won tonight's Twitter war with the weapons of yore, batting down Mitt Romney's complaint that the Navy will soon possess its smallest fleet since 1917 by reminding the challenger, "We also have fewer horses and bayonets."
"We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them," Obama cheekily informed Romney. "We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."
But even as the Republican's advisers tried to bounce the "zinger" back at the president - top aide Stu Stevens called the line demeaning to the military - Twitter sprung into meme-making mode.
By 9:45 p.m. ET, the microblog was seeing 105,767 tweets per minute (out of 6.5 million total) reporting or riffing on Obama's taunt. More than a half hour after the debate, #horsesandbayonets was still going strong, trending worldwide.
Esquire politics writer Charlie Pierce chimed in to list "things we also have fewer of," among them: "pikes, blunderbusses, flintlocks, and stone knives."
Within minutes, @RomneyBinders, a creation of Romney's boast during the previous debate that, as Massachusetts governor he had picked his female cabinet officers from "binders full of women," changed its handle to @HorsesBayonette. The merged account had more than 34,200 followers by midnight.
By 11 p.m., the rest of the internet was playing catch up, vaulting "horses and bayonets" to the top of Google's "Top 5 Rising Searches" list, right ahead of "Syria" and "drones."
Tumblr got moving a little later, with horsesbayonets.tumblr.com appearing and beginning to aggregate some of the more clever memes that had been accumulating on the web.
"The Most Interesting Man in The World" made a late appearance on the site. "I don't always fight wars," the often-spoofed Dos Equis beer ad character begins, "But when I do, I use horses and bayonets."
Earlier in the debate, Obama deployed a put-down of a more recent vintage while harping on Romney's past comment that Russia " is without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe."
The 1980s are "calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years," Obama said, before accusing Romney of wanting "to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s."
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