UK & World News
US Elections: Obama And Romney Crack Jokes
Last night President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney met for the first time since a combative and occasionally bad tempered debate earlier this week.
But the two men were at a charity dinner in New York, and the atmosphere could not have been more different.
This time the competition was for laughs, and Mitt Romney, who is often accused of being stiff and not likeable enough, proved himself to be, well, surprisingly funny.
Dressed in white tie, he joked about how nice it was to wear the kind of clothes he is used to at home, and speculated that the headline from the night's event would be 'Romney dines with rich people'.
He seemed relaxed and the laughs came easily from the audience; a marked difference from previous attempts at humour and one that may well help to silence his critics on the issue.
President Obama, naturally more at home when it comes to comedy, did not miss his chance either, poking fun at himself for a poor first debate performance.
He said: "This is the third time Governor Romney and I have met recently.
"As you may have noticed I had more energy in our second debate. I was well rested after the nap I had in the first debate. Although it turns out millions of Americans focused in on the second debate who didn't focus on the first debate.
"Turns out I was one of them."
But this is election season, Americans go to the polls in just 18 days, and the race is on a knife edge, so this was a chance for point scoring too.
President Obama threw ahead to the crucial third and final debate in Florida next week.
He said: "Monday's debate is a little bit different because the topic is foreign policy - spoiler alert: we got Bin Laden.
"Of course world affairs are a challenge for every candidate, some of you remember after my overseas trip in 2008 I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies, and I have to say I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem."
Mr Romney got one of the biggest laughs of the night when he said: "President Obama and I are both very lucky to have one person who's always in our corner, someone who we can always lean on and someone who's a comforting presence without whom we wouldn't be able to go another day.
"I have my beautiful wife Ann. He has Bill Clinton."
Earlier the President went on the ever-popular Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
It is a fake news programme, but the pressure on its star guest was all too real.
The host asked pointed questions, forcing Mr Obama to defend his response to the deadly attacks on the US mission in Libya.
But it was essentially friendly territory; the show is left leaning, and so the President also got the chance to outline a shopping list of successes - a mini stump speech.
He highlighted the end of the war in Iraq, the passage of his healthcare bill, and the dangers of voting for Mr Romney and policies Obama's team says will only benefit the wealthiest few.
And in a relentlessly bruising and expensive campaign, Obama probably welcomed some light relief.
He joked with Stewart about the racy novel Fifty Shades of Grey, catching himself just in time, saying "We're not going there, Jon. I'm still the President."
Gaffe prone Vice President Joe Biden also came in for some stick, when Stewart asked how many times he had shown up to a meeting in a wet swimsuit.
Obama said: "I had to put a presidential directive on that.
"I gotta say though, he looks pretty good."
Jokes aside, the main point of the Daily Show appearance was to appeal to the average audience of 1.1 million people watching from their sofas, many of them young voters who helped propel Mr Obama to victory in 2008.
He talked about issues important to that demographic; lowering college costs, gay rights and his continued ambition to close Guantanamo Bay.
He said: "Here's what I will say to everybody who's watching: The stakes on this could not be bigger.
"There's no excuse not to vote ? and I hope you vote for me."
In a race this close, that is an important plea.
Every vote will count.
Both men know that at this point, a mistake could cost them the White House.
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