The Alfred Smith charity dinner, held by Catholic charities, has traditionally hosted major party presidential candidates since Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960. The dinner, though, hasn’t hosted an incumbent president since 1980, when Carter and Reagan attended. Presidential candidates traditionally use the event to roast each other, taking a lighter tone just weeks out from election day, which means despite its white-tie nature it tends to be an evening when the candidates maybe come off as almost genuine for once.
The president joked about his first debate (giving Chris Matthews a stroke instead of a thrill up his leg), about voters in Ohio, Florida and Virginia choosing the next president, wishing he could use his middle name like Romney did, but avoided any jokes at the expense of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York City’s archbishop, or the Catholic Church, given the tensions from the contraceptive mandate in ObamaCare.
Not so for Romney. Joking that the white-tie affair meant he and his wife could wear what they wear around the house and wishing Joe Biden were there "because he'll laugh at anything," Romney also ribbed the president for his differences with Dolan and joked that the president would rewrite the contraceptive mandate in Latin to appease the church. Romney also called Big Bird his strawman (and offered that the dinner was “brought to you by the letter O and the number 16 trillion"), and made several jokes at the expense of media bias, including the headlines “Polls Show Obama Leading from Behind” and “Obama Embraced by Catholics, Romney Dines with Rich People."
The jokes also include a lit bit of campaigning, because there are less than three weeks to go till election day.