NEW YORK — President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney poked gentle but sharp fun at one another Thursday night during an esteemed New York Catholic charity dinner that has long been a required stop for presidential candidates. Romney mocked his own wealth while taking aim at the president for running up the federal debt while Obama noted the "nice long nap" he had taken during the first presidential debate.
The two rivals donned tuxedos and white ties to share the dais at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, an annual gala that has drawn political leaders and other notables since the end of World War II.
The event was a comedic pause in a contest that has drawn increasingly nasty and close with less than three weeks left before the Nov. 6 election. On Tuesday, Obama and Romney sparred in a nationally televised debate in which each questioned the other's character and truthfulness.
Romney spoke first at the dinner, which was set to raise $5 million for Catholic charities. Addressing the elegantly dressed crowd, Romney, a millionaire many times over, said "it's nice to finally relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house."
Of Obama, Romney said: "You have to wonder what he's thinking. So little time, so much to redistribute."
He playfully jabbed at Obama, saying both candidates have crucial people on whom they rely. "I have my beautiful wife, Ann; he's got Bill Clinton."
Obama followed, recalling his soporific performance in the first debate. He said that millions who watched the second debate hadn't focused on the first debate. And he said that would include him.
Obama noted that Mitt is actually Romney's middle name. Pausing, he added with some longing: "Wish I could use my middle name."
Obama also chided Romney for his wealth.
"Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown," Obama said. "I understand Gov. Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown."
Obama noted that he was preparing for the final debate with Romney on Monday, which will focus on foreign policy.
"Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden," Obama said, referring to the military mission that killed the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Through much of the evening, Obama and Romney sat one chair apart separated by host Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
It was a humorous break in the heated campaign at the Smith dinner, named for the four-term Democratic governor of New York who lost the 1928 presidential race to Republican Herbert Hoover. Smith was the first Catholic to run for president and the dinner named for him is organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children.