Yes, the emergence of a pair of three-ring binders, stuffed with women's resumes, is a reminder of a gaffe Romney committed during a debate five years ago. Touting his efforts to recruit women for government posts during his tenure as Massachusetts governor, Romney awkwardly referred to “whole binders full of women.”
It wasn't clear at the time whether these were literal or metaphorical binders. Either way, the remark suggested that Romney, a veteran of the male-dominated world of private equity, lacked women in his circle and could only hope to hire some by taking deliberate measures.
“We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women,” then-president Barack Obama said on the campaign trail the next day.
That the Boston Globe would put a photo of Romney's binders on the front page — and that so many other news outlets (including this one, obviously) would pick up the story — shows that a politician's poorly chosen words can dog him for a long time.
But consider this counterpoint raised by the Globe's Jim O'Sullivan:
In the Donald Trump era, the notion that Romney paid a political cost for explaining how he had tried to hire more women seems almost far-fetched.
Indeed, the binders' discovery could make voters in deep-red Utah, where Romney might run, nostalgic for a time when the chief criticism of the nation's top Republican was that he tried too hard to promote women.
During the 2016 election, multiple women accused Trump of touching them inappropriately over the years. The Washington Post published a 2005 video in which Trump bragged about being able to “do anything” to women and get away with it because he is famous.
Trump's Cabinet is overwhelmingly male, a fact the news media has noted. By contrast, half of Romney's senior policy appointees, in his first year as governor, were women.
In short, revisiting the “binders” episode makes Romney look like a champion for women, next to Trump. As The Fix's Aaron Blake wrote last week, it is very good to be a non-Trump Republican — especially one named Romney — in Utah right now.
Utah is about equally as anti-Trump as it is pro-Romney. Trump did win the state, but that victory owed entirely to the state's Republican lean. Polls there showed Trump's favorable rating as low as 19 percent and his unfavorable rating as high as 71 percent
, largely thanks to Mormons disliking him.
Romney might not be able to put his “binders” comment behind him, but he might not be hurt by it, either.