US & Canada

Obama and Romney swap jokes at Al Smith dinner

  • 19 October 2012
  • From the section US & Canada
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President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have made a series of lighthearted jabs at themselves and each other at a charity fundraiser.

At the event organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Mr Obama said his first debate performance - which he was judged to have lost - had been a "long nap" to prepare for the second.

Mr Romney mocked his own wealth.

Referring to his Mormon faith. he said he had prepared for the debates by "not drinking alcohol for 65 years".

Earlier, Mr Obama made an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

He said the US would "fix" security overseas after a deadly Libya attack.

Stewart asked Mr Obama about the administration's "confused" response to the attack on a US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September.

The US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died in the attack, which remains at the centre of the campaign debate ahead of a foreign policy debate in Florida on Monday.

Mr Obama told Stewart his administration was still piecing together the evidence.

"The government is a big operation. At any given time, something screws up and you make sure you find out what's broken and you fix it," he said.

Relax in a tie

Mr Obama also repeated his wish to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, a first term promise he has been criticised for not yet carrying out.

Image caption Obama was pressed on Libya by political chat show host Jon Stewart

The Alfred F Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner - a traditional fixture on the presidential campaign calendar - was Mr Romney's only public event on Thursday after several campaign stops in Virginia the day before.

Resplendent in formal white tie on stage, Mr Romney - known for his business fortune - said that after a long campaign it was "nice finally to relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house".

He also reminded the audience of the vice-president's mirth-filled approach to his debate with Paul Ryan a week ago: "I was hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along because he'll laugh at anything."

Referring to the first presidential debate, Mr Obama said: "I had more energy in second debate. I was well-rested after the nice long nap I had in first debate."

Mr Obama also noted he had been criticised for being too popular abroad at the beginning of his term. "I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem," he said, in a nod to a summer overseas trip that drew criticism.

The dinner was overseen by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has clashed with the administration over contraception provisions in Mr Obama's health care law.

Cardinal Dolan has said he received "stacks of mail" protesting against Mr Obama's invitation to the dinner, but he sought to avoid playing political favourites. The cardinal delivered benedictions at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2012.

Battle of polls

Ahead of his reunion with Mr Obama, a daily Gallup tracking poll of likely voters suggested Mr Romney had increased his lead nationally. However, a series of other polls show a much tighter race.

Mr Romney announced on Thursday that his campaign was leaving North Carolina, believing his victory was assured there. He is currently polling an average of six points ahead of Mr Obama in the state.

Mr Obama also benefited from new polling on Thursday, with a Pew Hispanic Center poll suggesting three-quarters of Catholic Latinos back the president.

The president picked up the backing of rock star Bruce Springsteen, as he did in 2008. Springsteen campaigned for Mr Obama on Thursday in Ohio with former President Bill Clinton.

"For 30 years I've been writing about the distance between the American dream and American reality," Springsteen said, reading from a statement.

"Our vote is the one principal way we get to determine that distance."