SAN FRANCISCO: Cavalry comments galloped online as a shot by President Barack Obama about “horses and bayonets” became the most talked about moment of the final presidential debate on Twitter.
Online sparring between supporters of Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney spiked during Monday’s debate after Romney derisively remarked that “our Navy is smaller now than [at] any time since 1917.”
Obama countered that Romney didn’t understand the modern military, saying “we also have fewer horses and bayonets” to laughter from the audience.
“We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines,” he said, adding that analyzing military capabilities was not “a game of Battleship.”
The exchange quickly trended on Twitter as #horsesandbayonets and within minutes of the debate’s close a CavalrymenForRomney.com website featured a forlorn warrior on horseback holding a Romney banner on a pike.
“So much sass I was not ready to handle,” one online comment read. “OMG, that’s a double burn.”
Obama’s shot echoed at Tumblr.com where artists posted cartoons and playfully doctored images poking fun at a Romney military based on outdated equipment like horses.
A freshly launched “Horses and Bayonets” page at Facebook with a charging U.S. cavalry photo bore the mocking message: “I stand with Mitt Romney. We must buy more horses and bayonets to strengthen our military.”
The Facebook page racked up more than 3,500 likes shortly after launch.
Obama’s “horses and bayonets” barb caused Twitter message volume during the debate to hit a peak of 105,767 tweets, according to the popular San Francisco-based micro-blogging service.
“While it was a busy evening with several events competing for viewers’ attention, the political conversation on Twitter remained strong, with 6.5 million tweets sent about the 90-minute debate,” the firm said in a blog post.
A Twitter user thrilled that hashtag #horsesandbayonets caught on quickly as a trending topic and said she was eager to see what parody was in store at U.S. television comedy show Saturday Night Live.
“Bayonets and horses will go down in the history books,” actress Bette Midler tweeted.
Another message spoke of the potential for “a dressage-based foreign policy: equestrian fetishism in the Romney White House,” referring to the horse-dancing Olympic event that a mare owned by Romney’s wife Ann takes part in.
Someone with the screen name ifdreamstherebe insisted that the jokes obscured the larger point.
“Sure, we can arm all of our military forces to the hilt, with any and everything they could possibly need ... But, do we have to?”
Other users saw Obama’s comments as a rare “smackdown” moment in the debate, with one commenter joking that the president should have “picked up a mic and dropped it” after delivering the line.
Some users felt Obama’s response was too snarky, with Charles Lane saying the president had a “mocking and belittling tone.”
“I still like my bayonet. But what do I know. I only served in two wars,” wrote Kurt Schlichter.