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Presidential Humor Pt. 2 – Obama’s Digs at Himself

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Charles Dharapak/AP

Good leadership requires a flair for public speaking, sharp wit and a knack for self-deprecating humor. By that standard, both candidates were in fine form Thursday evening. Like a breath of fresh air, the presidential candidates took a moment to raise money for charity and inject some levity into the tension filled presidential race--trading good-natured jokes and poking fun at each other just two days after a contentious town hall debate.

In a joint appearance at the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, held at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, the candidates raised $5 million and took turns throwing barbs all the while smiling good-naturedly. The choice of jokes, however, indicated that the tensions of the trail were not entirely on hold. 

President Barack Obama followed Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The following are the highlights from Obama's routine:

Mitt Romney's jokes can be found here.

  • On his performance at the first debate: “As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate.”
  • “Of course, there's a lot of things I learned from that experience, for example, I learned that there are worse things that can happen to you on your anniversary than forgetting to buy a gift.”
  • “Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown.”
  • “I used to love walking thought Central Park, love to go to old Yankee Stadium, the house that Ruth built although he really did not build that. I hope everybody's aware of that.”
  • “I've heard some people say, Barack, you're not as young as you used to be, where's that golden smile? Where that pep in your step and I say, settle down Joe, I'm trying to run a cabinet meeting.”
  • “Sometimes it feels like this race has dragged on forever, but Paul Ryan assured me that we've only been running for two hours and fifty something minutes.”
  • On the 7.8 percent unemployment rate: “Of course, the economy's on everybody's minds. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since I took office…I don't have a joke here, I just thought it'd be useful to remind everybody that the unemployment rate is at the lowest it's been since I took office.”
  • “Ultimately, though, tonight's not about the disagreements Governor Romney and I may have. It's what we have in common, beginning with our unusual names. Actually Mitt is his middle name, I wish I could use my middle name.”
  • “Monday's debate is a little different because the topic is foreign policy. Spoiler alert, we got Bin Laden.”
  • “World affairs are a challenge for every candidate. After -- some of you guys remember -- after my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem.”

Each man concluded the evening with a gracious comment about the other:

  • "I particularly want to thank Governor Romney for joining me because I admire him very much as a family man, and a loving father. And those are two titles that will always matter more than any political ones."

Watch the remarks:

See Mitt Romney's best jokes from the evening.

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Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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