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Obama, Romney swap bile for biting humor at charity dinner

NEW YORK -- Barack Obama mocked his damaging “nap” in the first debate and Mitt Romney lampooned the president's jobs record Thursday, as the White House foes cloaked hostility with humor at a fabled charity dinner.

Obama and his Republican foe mixed punchlines and self mockery at the Al Smith Memorial Dinner in New York with a layer of collegiality barely disguising their bitter rivalry just 18 days before a razor's edge election.

The tuxedo-wearing candidates sat at the top table of the glittering white-tie affair, separated only by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, just two days after their latest acrimonious debate.

Romney got the first turn to speak and his debut zinger took a shot at his own wealth, saying it was nice for him and wife Ann, resplendent in a black and white dress with a cape, to slip into clothes they would wear around the house.

He joked his challenger had come up with a new slogan after good employment data this month: “You're better off now than you were four weeks ago.”

Romney said Obama's presidency was in its final months, and said the Democrat, derided by some conservatives as a socialist, was looking around at the wealthy audience and thinking “so little time, so much to redistribute.”

In his stand-up routine, Romney also took a shot at the media, which many Republicans think is biased towards Obama.

“My job is to lay out a positive vision for the future of the country. Their job is to make sure that no one else finds out about it.”

Obama and Romney had earlier greeted one other, before the well-heeled crowd at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, with smiles and handshakes, but the reality of a closely contested race simmered below the surface.

The president also started out in self deprecating tone, noting he had shown more energy in their second debate on Tuesday, than in his disastrous first effort two weeks ago.

“I was really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate!” Obama joked, before going on to poke fun at multimillionaire Romney's bulging wallet after a career as a venture capitalist.

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Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama greet each other as they attend the 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity gala organized by the Archdiocese of New York at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, Thursday, Oct. 18. (AP)

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