In the grand digital tradition of American political debates, the audience tends to seize upon singular phrases or gestures that, at least for a few hours, seem to define the evening’s discussion.
After Tuesday evening’s vice-presidential debate between Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, it was clear “that Mexican thing” had become a phrase of choice.
“When Donald Trump says women should be punished, that Mexicans are rapists and criminals, or John McCain’s not a hero, he is showing you who he is,” Mr. Kaine said, after repeated efforts during the 90-minute debate to try and persuade Mr. Pence to explain or defend Donald J. Trump’s past comments about immigrants.
“Senator, you’ve whipped out that Mexican thing again,” Mr. Pence replied, according to the transcript. “He — look ...”
“Can you defend it?” Mr. Kaine said.
“There are criminal aliens in this country, Tim, who have come into this country illegally who are perpetrating violence and taking American lives,” Mr. Pence said.
“You want to — you want to use a big broad brush against Mexicans on that?” Mr. Kaine countered.
“He also said and many of them are good people,” Mr. Pence said. “You keep leaving that out of your quote. And if you want me to go there, I’ll go there.” But he then turned back to the question, which was about abortion.
The internet, naturally, did go there.
Mexican-Americans adopted the hashtag to share stories about their relatives.
Some also reminded Twitter about which way they would vote.
And one enterprising individual bought the domain name ThatMexicanThing.com. That web address redirects to Hillary Clinton’s campaign website. According to a report from Wired, it wasn’t the work of Ms. Clinton’s campaign, but of a Portland-based man named Danilo Alfaro.
“I registered the domain and pointed it at hillaryclinton.com on my own, without any contact with the campaign beforehand,” Mr. Alfaro said. (He did add that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign reached out to thank him.)
An email request for further comment from the Trump campaign was not immediately returned on Wednesday, but it was clear that Mr. Pence had the support of his running mate.
“Mike Pence won big. We should all be proud of Mike!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, before sending another tweet that criticized Mr. Kaine for frequently interrupting Mr. Pence.