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. Avtar Singh

    America! Land of the free.

    October 19, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  2. Happy Camper

    That was nice.

    October 19, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  3. J R Brown

    Romney should have mentioned that the prisoneres at Guantanamo are already writing him to ask for a new cricket field to go with their new million dollar soccer facilities.

    October 19, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Our President not only has integrity, class and compassion for the American people and respect for his opponents, he also has a great sense of humor and humility. President Obama is by far the most funniest we've ever had. And he's the most down to earth and genuine President we've had perhaps since Thomas Jefferson.

    October 19, 2012 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  5. liberal disease

    2 Rich guys yucking it up.

    October 19, 2012 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Glad to see Romney finally admitting how great Obama is.

    October 19, 2012 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  7. Sean

    This is why America is the greatest country in the world.....two bitter rivals can in a moments notice switch gears and enjoy a civilized dinner together and even move up a notch.....poke mature fun at each other. When times call for it, both parties can unite and move forward as one. Hopefully they can do that on more issues.

    October 19, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  8. Dar

    To bad we all can't be human like the two canidates were last night.
    Politics are just that"Politics"
    Now if the govermant could all just come together after the elections and work together our, country would do just fine.

    October 19, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  9. luckjoe

    Romney 2012!

    October 19, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  10. bryanbeus

    Great to see how positive and funny both of these men are.

    October 19, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  11. Armyvet129

    I love this event. I thought both candidates were classy and funny. It's really good to hear them say nice things about each other, we American's pretty much understand their plans and the issues by now. I hope the next debate is civil and informative, then it's time to do our duty as citizens.

    October 19, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  12. Steve

    Did Romney go to the dinner with binders full of women?

    October 19, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  13. Tim

    Niceto put Benghazi and Binders aside for a moment. Now it is time to figure out which of the two of these, Binders or Benghazi, are the serious issues by which we, as people of a nation, will determine is of importance to us as voters. I hope we do not treat it as a joke.

    October 19, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  14. mike t

    lol brought to you by the letter O and the number 16 trillion

    October 19, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  15. Bilbo

    Hmm, no mention of the Crusades....or as the Islamists now call it...Jihad.

    October 19, 2012 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  16. Small Font

    Romney had funnier jokes!

    October 19, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  17. Heidi

    John Jackson vs. Jack Johnson

    October 19, 2012 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  18. Nate

    Well at least there were a few positives between them, although I didn't read much from Obama.

    October 19, 2012 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  19. ForGoodOfAll

    Nice to hear some humor and bi-partisan good-natured razzing. We need more of that in such a negative, polarized time in our country today. I applaud both candidates for their participation in this light-hearted event. Bravo!

    October 19, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  20. Norm

    Im so glad to see this.
    There is so much anger and hate in our politics today.
    Both men are good, decent Americans that care about this country.
    It's a shame the money boys behind them have to divide our country by manipulating the voters with their hate filled propaganda and lies.
    Money has ruined our political system and it's only getting worse.

    October 19, 2012 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  21. Gurgyl

    Those debts are caused by Bush 2 unfounded wars, and Reagan trickle down, and mitt Romney is a family man–nothing more than that. Yes, on Obama12.

    October 19, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  22. SugarKube

    Romney was great. Obama, not so much.

    October 19, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  23. MGlass

    And that is truly what America is all about, that is an example of how a democracy can work. Two individuals battling each other on stage for votes then days later, joking on stage for charity.

    October 19, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  24. EP1

    Wow, Mit just destroyed Barry with these remarks. Funny, poignant and done with superb comedic timing, very impressive.

    Mitt looked presidential and Barry looked like an afterthought, and Barry knew that as well.

    October 19, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  25. Davesh

    Okay, those are pretty funny no matter who you're voting for.

    October 19, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
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