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. Snoop

    The election is over.. Mitt in a landslide!

    October 19, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  2. Hadenuffyet

    Seems more civility than you find in these forums.

    October 19, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  3. Dougwhitlock@roadrunner.com

    Is this a great country or what? Where else could this happen?

    October 19, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  4. ohgran

    Romney took the opportunity to campaign at the cost of the Al Smith Dinner. Mrs. Romney took the opportunity to show she lacks class when she failed to extend a hand to the President as all the others did as he passed on his way to his place at the table. They just showed everyone there that money can't buy you class.

    October 19, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  5. Professor Abronsius


    October 19, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  6. UrAverageJoe

    This event is always refreshing. If only those on right and left wing talk radio could remember that both candidates are Americans and love this country. They have slightly different visions of how to get to the same destination – a better country for all.

    October 19, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  7. DC1973

    Ok. That Paul Ryan joke is hilarious.

    October 19, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  8. Peter

    Who knew Mitt Romney could be funny!!! They both were great though.

    October 19, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  9. Renegatus

    And you all still think Romney and Obama have unique agenda's? The socialite wealthy "elite" all have the same interests to promote their wealth. This country is falling into Plutocracy, and it doesn't make any difference if you choose the puppet on the right, or the puppet on the left.

    October 19, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  10. kyle

    Romney not the stiff rich guy after all. He was halarios!

    October 19, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  11. Lisa


    October 19, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  12. Chuck

    They were both hilarious, it was a good thing

    October 19, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  13. Melisa

    I felt like Mitt didn't understand what he was supposed to do at this event. It wasn't a presidential roast.

    October 19, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  14. chaing

    Robme was a bit aggressive and in my opinion mean. Always a campaiger and trying to take the jab. Even at a fun event to Bully. Wonder what that would look like as a president? I I for one don't want to find out!

    October 19, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  15. Beverly - NYC

    Even doing comedy, Romney loosk like he's constipated, and that stupid head to the side thing he does is annoyng.

    October 19, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  16. That's AWESOME

    They're both good sports for doing this. Great humor from both of them!

    October 19, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  17. former gop

    Don't trust romney, he will not support his modate approach that he just recently adopted. His comment concerning 47% still resonates with me. My mom worked multiple jobs, mostly low paying jobs, to raise me and my siblings, so we had cloths and food on the table. How dare he speak abort the effort and commitment she demonstrated to raise us. I joined the army at the age of twenty, to take the burden off my mother. I have deployed several time to fight for our great nation and Obama' s refocus against AQ was the right thing to do. Romney doesn't respect hard working Americans, those who have displayed true acts of selfless service, even in the face of provety like my mother, for the betterment of their family any nation. For him you only matter if your super rich; just like him.

    October 19, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  18. jasonn13

    Surprised me quite a bit but Romney kicked Obama's butt in comedy too.

    October 19, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |

    Nice humor! Tough to do when the campaigns are in tight fights. Good sports!

    October 19, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  20. Lew Craig

    What a wonderful diversion from the campaign! It speaks highly of both men.

    October 19, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  21. PlaPla

    Romney sucks. he can not help himself but spew out stump speeches. Not funny at all.

    October 19, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  22. lovemygirl

    Very funny exchange between the two

    October 19, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  23. Emily

    Lol good stuff

    October 19, 2012 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  24. Chris

    A refreshing read during all the nastiness during this election. They were both very funny. Romney should try to be that charismatic on a regular basis ... he's so stiff and wooden most of the time.

    October 19, 2012 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  25. Landry

    Would love to see if any liberal can admit Romney was way funnier than Obama. Of course, he had better writers....but still.

    October 19, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
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