Barack Obama and Mitt Romney: A battle of wits – but who’ll have the last laugh?

Obama and Romney return to the campaign trail after light relief at charity dinner

After a brief interlude of humour, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney yesterday returned to the crucial business of the election now barely a fortnight away, campaigning in battleground states and readying themselves for their third and final debate on Monday.

While presidential opponents rarely show much affection for each other, personal relations between Mr Obama and Mr Romney - if the venomous exchanges of their last debate are anything to go by - are especially scornful. But the animosity was put aside on Thursday evening as both donned white ties in Manhattan to attend the traditional Alfred Smith Memorial Dinner, a fundraising event for Catholic charities.

With Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York sitting between them, the two traded jokes, some aimed at their opponent, some at themselves. Making fun of his wealth, Mr Romney kicked off by noting that "It's nice to finally relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house." Mr Obama responded in kind, making fun of his limp performance in his first match-up with his Republican challenger.

"As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had during the first debate. I also learnt that there are worse things that can happen to you on your [wedding] anniversary than forgetting to buy a gift."

But other quips were more barbed. "Earlier I went shopping at some stores in Midtown [Manhattan]. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown."

Pointing to the rich audience assembled for the event, Mr Romney joked about Mr Obama: "You have to wonder what he's thinking - so little time, so much to re-distribute".

Yesterday though it was back to the campaign trail slog, in a race that remains neck-and-neck, and that will be decided by a handful of swing states. Mr Romney was in Florida, where polls put him ahead by a whisker, while Mr Obama was in Virginia, where he holds an equally slender lead of perhaps two or three per cent.

At his rally in Fairfax, in Washington suburbs, the president focused on women's issues, from jobs to abortion, in tacit recognition of the gains Mr Romney appears to have made among female voters. These have eaten into Mr Obama's previously massive advantage in a key part of the electorate, and partly explain why the contest is now so close, analysts say.

Today, however, both candidates go into political purdah, as they prep up for Monday's debate in Boca Raton, Florida, which will deal with foreign policy - relations with China and Russia, the crises in Syria and over Iran's nuclear programme, but above all the attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, last month, in which four Americans were killed.

Mr Romney has repeatedly criticised the administration's apparent failure to provide proper security for the mission despite warnings of trouble, and its shifting explanations of precisely what happened. Mr Obama predictably rejects that interpretation of events.

During an appearance by Mr Obama on The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart contended that even he would admit his administration's coordination and communication had not been 'optimal.' The president replied: "If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it."

'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£60 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Youth Support Workers Glouceste...

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Primary Teaching Jobs Available NOW-Southport

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London