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.
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.”
“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 met that we’ve only been running for 2 hours and 50-something minutes.”