October 18th, 2012
10:40 PM ET
7 years ago

Comedic relief: Obama, Romney bring on the jokes at annual dinner

New York (CNN) - President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were within arm's length for the second time this week, as they shared the stage at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner Thursday and delivered feisty quips at each other's expense.

Donning tuxes at the elaborate event, a traditional election-year stop for presidential candidates, the two paused at the Waldorf Astoria for a night of comedic relief with less than three weeks to go in the already-bitter race.

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Romney followed the event's time-honored tradition of poking a little fun at himself.

Standing before a sea of elegantly dressed guests at the white-tie function, Romney quipped: "A campaign can require a lot of wardrobe changes. Blue jeans in the morning, perhaps. Suit for a lunch fundraiser. Sport coat for dinner. But it's nice to finally relax and to wear what Ann and I wear around the house."

On the heels of a contentious debate Tuesday night, Romney noted he and the president enjoyed "chatting pleasantly" at dinner.

"I credit that of course to the cardinal," he said of American Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sat with the two men. "It's taken New York's highest spiritual authority to get us back on our best behavior."

Romney went on to deliver a series of zingers, using humor to needle the president and his policies.

The GOP presidential nominee said he wouldn't be surprised to hear Obama mention the better-than-expected September jobs report.

"He knows how to seize a moment, this president, and already has a compelling new campaign slogan: You're better off now than you were four weeks ago," he said.
After several jabs at Obama, Romney took aim at a politician's favorite target: the press.

"I've already seen reports from tonight's dinner. Headline: Obama embraced by Catholics, Romney dines with rich people," he said, to laughter.

Romney closed his remarks on a serious note and offered praise for his opponent.

"Our president has had some very fine and gracious moments. Don't tell him I said so, but our 44th president has many gifts and a beautiful family that would make any man proud," he said. "In our country you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case against their policies without an ill will. And that's how it is for me."


For his part, Obama also took a self-deprecating approach, though he certainly made a few swipes at his opponent. The president drew most of his laughs when he poked fun at his widely panned debate performance in the first presidential showdown earlier this month.

"As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate," he said. "I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate."

The night of the debate, October 3, also marked his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife, Michelle. Obama said he learned that "there are worse things that can happen to you on your anniversary than forgetting to buy a gift."

He also took some swipes at Romney, who was sitting just a few feet away. "Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown, I understand Gov. Romney went shopping FOR some stores in Midtown."

The president further roasted Romney over the GOP nominee's recent trip to Europe, one that faced negative headlines over comments Romney made during the tour to England, Israel and Poland.

"After my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity, because I was so popular with our allies overseas," he said. "I have to say I'm impressed with how well Gov. Romney has avoided that problem."

The president, however, noted that the two candidates shared one thing in common: their "unusual" names.

"Actually Mitt is his middle name. I wish I could use my middle name," he said, referring to his middle name of "Hussein."

But Obama couldn't finish the night without touting the support of a recent endorsement:

"And we're getting to that time when folks are making up their minds. The other day, Honey Boo-Boo endorsed me," he said, referring to the child star of a new TLC reality show.

"So that's a big relief."

READ MORE: Below is a list of other jokes the candidates made Thursday night.


"As President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room, with everyone in white tie and finery, you have to wonder what he’s thinking. So little time. So much to redistribute."

"I never suggest that the press is biased. I recognize they have their job to do, and I have my job to do. My job is to lay out a positive vision for the future of the country, and their job is to make sure no one else finds out about it."

"Your kind hospitality here tonight gives me a chance to convey my deep and long-held respect for the Catholic church, and special admiration for the apostle St Peter, to whom it is said, upon this rock I will build this church. the story’s all the more inspiring when you consider that he had so many skeptics and scoffers at the time who were heard to say: If you’ve got a church, you didn’t build that."


"It turns out millions of Americans focused in on the second debate who didn't focus in on the first debate–and I happen to be one of them."

"Win or lose, this is my last political campaign, so I’m trying to drink it all in. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg will only let me have 16 ounces of it."

"I have to admit it can be a grind. Sometimes it feels like this race has dragged on forever. But Paul Ryan assured me that we’ve only been running for 2 hours and 50-something minutes."

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • New York • President Obama
soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Donkey Party

    Romney needs a better writer. He's about as funny as cancer.

    October 18, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  2. Barton Bollfrass

    It's a shame that we have to portray ourselves as enemies 364 days of the year, when in actuality we're all Americans and have very few real differences. Despite what many assume, when the chips are down we always come together. That's what being American is really about.

    October 18, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  3. roro

    Although they both got in some funny lines, Romney looked so uncomfortable and his jokes were a bit snippier. Obama was more self-depracating and a lot more comfortable.

    October 18, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  4. MikeInCarolina

    It's ironic that these two very wealthy candidates can joke and dine together while ordinary folks who'll never meet either of them develope anger and even hatred on their behalf mostly based on what's being said by pundits who get rich selling advertising and propaganda aimed at the rest of us. We must be fools.

    October 18, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  5. scmaize

    Sounds like a good time. I'm glad they are able to poke fun at themselves. It says something positive about both candidates.

    October 18, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  6. agree_to_disagree

    Obama did well and was funny, but Romney was hilarious.
    It's good to see them both somewhat relaxed and cracking jokes at themselves and each other.

    October 18, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  7. E=MC2

    What a contrast between Romney and Obama. Romney was so much funnier yet composed and looked like he was truly enjoying the evening. Obama was stale and lackluster. With less than three weeks to go, the American people are seeing the stark contrast between an absent President and a man who can get things done. What a ray of hope Romney is. Obama was way over his head trying to be President and now the American people need to vote in a replacement who has the experience and temperament to be President.

    October 18, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  8. ATT

    Time to let the people rise to demonstrate to the world that for change and forward violence is not necessary. Fight on America and USC.

    October 18, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  9. ATT

    We need to demonstrate that for social change to move forward violence is not necessary. We are the USA.

    October 18, 2012 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  10. Tom

    I don't agree with his policies but what Romney said about Obama's gifts and his family etc....total class

    October 18, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  11. adam4x4

    Love this event. Always great jokes. Can't wait to hear/read some more

    October 18, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  12. Hope Bahr

    Holy crap, that's funny stuff. Good to see them laughing 🙂

    October 18, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  13. e320dq

    Good stuff from both of them – joint presidency?

    October 18, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  14. David

    I love politics because of the hypocrisy!

    October 19, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  15. DoubleEM

    Respect to Gov. Romney for decent words toward Obama. That's called class.

    October 19, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  16. Shin

    My wish to both candidate, whoever win, please focus first on creating job that anything else. When there is jobs, a lot of problem can be solve. Obama made a mistake of focusing first on Obamacare that the jobs creation by taxing company that offshores jobs.

    October 19, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  17. Jay

    This is great to see both men poking fun at themselves and each other!

    Exactly what everyone (including them) needed! Good luck to them both and God bless America!

    October 19, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  18. Citizen

    Romney's writers need to learn the difference between jest and a roast. Did anyone else notice that most of romney's jokes were harsh and taken at others while Obama's were taken moreso at himself.

    October 19, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  19. Who Cares

    Got to admit it Romney was a lot funnier than expected. Always knew Obama could yuck it up.

    October 19, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  20. S~

    Well at least they're laughing at each other and not at us.

    October 19, 2012 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  21. Sinator

    They both are intelligent, clever and likeable men. One is just a much bigger liar than the other, which shouldn't be taken as a compliment by either party.

    October 19, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  22. Kdawg

    Civil and funny comments..... I like it

    October 19, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  23. SS

    These two still hate each other with a passion.

    October 19, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  24. USwatcher

    With the apparent division and vitriol between many Democrat and Republican elected officials...along with many in the general population...it's refreshing that our President and Gov.Romney can be politefully civil to one another...All Americans should make note.

    October 19, 2012 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  25. cgs

    Romney was very charming and witty with a touch of humility. Very refreshing!

    October 19, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
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