Rivals Obama And Romney Quiet Hostilities For Al Smith Dinner
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Star power met political power in New York City on Thursday night as President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney declared a one-night ceasefire to play politics for laughs.
The presidential candidates sat on stage at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The dinner’s host was Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was strategically positioned between Obama and Romney and surrounded by a host of stars.
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With the Waldorf buttoned down under presidential-level security, the two candidates ascended to the grand dais packed with millionaires, billionaires, bishops, pundits, politicians and the occasional TV star.
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However, the event was not designed for debate, but to shmooze in what the hosts of the dinner called a spirit of civility and common cause.
Romney and Obama wasted no time cracking jokes and taking the occasional playful shot at each other.
“Earlier today, I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Gov. Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown,” Obama said.
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Romney also added his own barb, saying of Obama “You have to wonder what he’s thinking. So little time, so much to redistribute.”
Romney joked about how he prepared for the presidential debates and even made reference to one particular Sesame Street favorite.
“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,” Romney said.
Following Romney, Obama joked that New Yorkers would have a big choice to make during campaign 2012.
“You have to decide which one of us you want holding up traffic for the next four years,” the president joked.
Cardinal Dolan told the audience “in the interest of maintaining civility, we’re keeping them each out of each other’s space. We are separating them with a vast expanse.”
The Al Smith Dinner is named for the former four-term governor of New York who was the unsuccessful 1928 Democratic presidential candidate and the first Catholic to run for president. His great-grandson, Alfred W. Smith IV, was the dinner’s master of ceremonies and started the night with a zinger of his own.
“I’m Al Smith, and I’m tonight’s referee … MC, I mean. Let me just say it’s wonderful to see you all. I want to say a special welcome to all the accomplished women here tonight. It’s good to see you made it out of those binders,” Smith said to applause.
New York politicians, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, were also not spared from being the butt of jokes.
“I’m pleased once again to have the chance to see Gov. Cuomo, who’s already being talked about for higher office, 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,” Romney said.
Obama poked fun at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s push to limit the size of sugary beverages.
“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,” he said.
The event, which is one meant to transcend the baser elements of politics, was set to raise $5 million for Catholic charities.
A total of 1,600 attendees attended the dinner Thursday for a price of at least $2,500 per person. The guests included names like Sen. Charles Schumer, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
What was your favorite zinger of the night? Let us know in the comments section below…