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.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

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. trinimum

    Both were very funny & it was for a great cause...

    October 19, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  2. NameJoe

    What a joke. More proof that these guys are one in the same. Wake up America

    October 19, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  3. Benjamin

    Some good zings on both sides for this one.

    October 19, 2012 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  4. Keep This In Mind

    Obama seemed like he wasn't enjoying himself much. He fell a little flat, though to be fair, he had some really good moments. Romney did better in my estimation. I think Obama is worried ~ probably got the news about Pennsylvania.

    October 19, 2012 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  5. MrSmartyAss

    If were Barrack Obama, I would not talk or chat with Mitt Romney unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e at a debate).

    October 19, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  6. jim

    Hmm. Suddenly I like them both a whole lot better. Still dont know who to vote for, though

    October 19, 2012 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  7. James

    I'm glad the two are capable of enjoying each other's presence. The debate was just Romney provoking Obama and Obama slamming Romney. I was embarrassed that either represent me as an American. even being conservative I am not a fan of either candidate. I just hope things improve over the next decade

    October 19, 2012 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  8. Ryan in Miami

    Anything to give us a break from politics-as-usual.... I just wish the campaign season would end tomorrow, after I mail in my ballot.

    October 19, 2012 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  9. Paul

    I think Mitt thought this was a roast, as he went a bit overboard focusing jabs at the President. Obama was much classier, as always, and directed most of his barbs at himself.

    October 19, 2012 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  10. Clancy

    Its good to see them joking around with each other.

    October 19, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  11. gd

    very cool!

    October 19, 2012 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  12. arturo

    It would be great to see more collaboration between both parties for the progress and the people in the US. Not just in this public event.

    October 19, 2012 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  13. jwright5500

    I love this! What a refreshing break from the outright ugliness being demonstrated by partisans. My fourth grader came home today and told me that a classmate said she would "kill" anyone who voted for Romney and "hate" anyone who even "liked" him. Seriously, time to tone down the rhetoric or we adults will have blood on our hands.

    October 19, 2012 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  14. 1bluesmurf

    Governor Romney is very impressive, He is really Presidential looking.
    I hope he makes it, we really need someone with his Intelligence & experience to get us out of this mess.
    President Obama just isn't qualified to be President, I believe "he bit off more than he could chew".
    Our time has run out, we can't experiment any more.

    October 19, 2012 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  15. Oshkosh

    Why can't politician resolve their difference with humor like this.

    October 19, 2012 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  16. MCFx

    Yet another myth goes down in flames: "Mitt is stiff and boring!"

    THAT was one of the FUNNIEST bits I've seen in a LONG time. Romney was HILARIOUS and his timing was GREAT!

    The writer of that material needs to get a job on CONAN!

    October 19, 2012 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
  17. davidintel

    Then, at the end of the evening, both sides went back to really bashing each other over the head.

    October 19, 2012 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  18. Maripil

    This particular dinner is supposed to make fun of yourself, but instead Romney took this opportunity to take swipes on Pres. Obama rather than poke fun on himself!!

    October 19, 2012 03:45 am at 3:45 am |
  19. Durhasan

    If only they could adapt this demeanor for the balance of the campaign.

    October 19, 2012 03:59 am at 3:59 am |
  20. Nobias

    I love this night. I find it so refreshing to watch. I was struck by John McCain in 2008 because he killed it comedically and was a great sport despite probably knowing in his heart of hearts that there was no going against the tide of hope and change of that year, but, regardless he shined on this night. Now, only 4 years later, but with much more contempt, I think both candidates managed to get the comedic timing right and self deprecating humor in, while landing some good jabs at the opponent as well.
    What a welcomed retreat.

    October 19, 2012 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  21. Aret

    Neither one seems ideal to guide this failing country. That much is true.

    October 19, 2012 04:41 am at 4:41 am |
  22. Sam

    It was a great performance. Although Romney didn't seem comfortable in his delivery, he had funnier lines, albeit at the expense at Obama. For his part Obama used more of self-deprecation than Romney. All in all, I laughed and enjoyed.

    October 19, 2012 05:01 am at 5:01 am |
  23. Jack Deal

    the joke's on us...

    October 19, 2012 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  24. Chuck Steak

    This is just more affirmation that we are the greatest country in the world!

    October 19, 2012 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  25. werescrewed2012

    Lol, mayor bloomberg would only let me have 16 ounces of it.

    October 19, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6