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Presidential Humor Pt. 1 – Romney’s Funny Side Revealed

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. 

Mitt Romney spoke first, followed by President Barack Obama. The following are the highlights of Romney’s routine:

President Obama’s jokes can be found here.

  • Romney, wearing tux and bow-tie: "A campaign can require a lot of wardrobe changes. Blue jeans in the morning perhaps, suits 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 New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo: “A very impressive fellow, but he may be getting a little ahead of himself. I mean, let me get this straight, the man has put in one term as a governor. He has a father who happened to be a governor, and he thinks that's enough to run for president.”
  • “As President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room with everyone in white tie and refinery, you have to wonder what he's thinking. So little time, so much to redistribute.”
  • On the 7.8 percent unemployment rate: “Don't be surprised if the president mentions this evening the monthly jobs report where there was a slight improvement in the numbers. He knows how to seize the moment, this president. And already has a compelling new campaign slogan, "You're better off now than you were four weeks ago."
  • On his debate prep and Big Bird: Just the other night we had a very fun debate. Candy Crowley was there, and was happy to welcome us, but people seem to be very curious just as to how we prepare for the debates. Let me tell you what I do. First, refrain from alcohol for 65 years before the debate. Second, find the biggest available straw man and then just mercilessly attack it. Big Bird didn't even see it coming.
  • Campaigns can be grueling, exhausting. President Obama and are each very lucky to have one person who is always in our corner, someone who we can lean on, and someone who is a comforting presence. Without whom, we wouldn't be able to go another day. I have my beautiful wife Ann, he has Bill Clinton.
  • On Bias in the Media: “And I've already seen early reports from tonight's dinner, headline; ‘Obama Embraced by Catholics. Romney Dines with Rich People.’”

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

  • “Our president has had some very fine and gracious moments. Don't tell anyone I said so, but our 44th president has many gifts and a beautiful family that would make any man proud. In our country, you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case against their policies without any ill will and that's how it is for me. There's more to life than politics.”

Watch the remarks:

See President Obama'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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