Steve Harvey and Jerry Seinfeld they're not, but President Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney did their best to bring the laughs at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner Thursday night.
Participating in the annual Catholic charitable event is a time-honored tradition for presidential candidates who take aim at themselves and each other — all in jest. This year it took place just a couple of days after what critics have called one of the most acrimonious and combative presidential debates.
The president opened by asking everyone to take their seats, "otherwise Clint Eastwood will yell at them." He also poked fun of his widely panned performance in his first debate with Romney.
“Some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate,” he said.
In another reference to that first encounter, he gave a shout out to Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, who has been known to respond very emotionally to Obama's speeches.
"I particularly want to apologize to Chris Matthews," Obama said. "Four years ago, I gave him a thrill up his leg; this time around, I gave him a stroke."
The president said that while he and Romney may disagree on a lot, the dinner was more about what they have in common, including unusual names. Noting that Mitt is Romney's middle name, he said wistfully, "I wish I could use my middle name."
The president also said that both had spent time in midtown that day, but while he was shopping at stores, his opponent was shopping for stores.
Romney began his remarks at the white-tie dinner with a nod to his reputation for being stiff and digs made about his wealth.
“A campaign can require a lot of wardrobe changes — blue jeans in the morning, perhaps, suits for a lunch fundraiser, sport coat for dinner — but it’s nice to finally relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house,” Romney said. He was wearing a tuxedo.
But he also seemed to save his biggest zingers for the president, sometimes to make a political point.
“Of course, we’re down to the final months of the president’s term. As President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room with everybody in white tie and finery you have to wonder what he’s thinking: ‘So little time, so much to redistribute.’”
Romney added that he and Obama are both “very lucky to have one person who’s always in our corner, someone who we can lean on and someone who is a comforting presence without whom we wouldn’t be able to go another day. I have my beautiful wife, Ann; he has Bill Clinton."
The rivals will be together again on Oct. 22 for their third and final debate, which will focus on foreign policy.
“Spoiler alert," said Obama. "We got bin Laden!"
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(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)