MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The presidential campaign, heavy on finger-pointing and recrimination, is taking a brief detour so President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can play politics for laughs.
The rivals are quieting the bickering to address the venerable Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a white-tie gala Thursday evening at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel that has been a required stop for politicians since the end of World War II. Obama also planned to play for laughs on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” while he’s in Manhattan.
The president campaigned earlier Thursday in tightly contested New Hampshire and asked the state’s voters to give him more time in office to get the economy back on track. “I need your help to finish what we started in 2008.”
The dinner was Romney’s only public event Thursday. But his wife sat down on ABC’s “The View” and declared in response to a question from co-host Barbara Walters that her husband’s political career will end if he doesn’t win on Nov. 6.
“Absolutely,” she said without hesitation. “He will not run again, nor will I.”
Mrs. Romney said it was “a very hard thing” to put her family through another White House bid after he lost the 2008 Republican primary. She said she agreed to a second run because she feels her husband is uniquely qualified to bring economic hope and prosperity to America.
Also appearing on the program was the Romneys’ son Josh, who was asked about brother Tagg’s joke during a radio interview Wednesday that he wanted to “take a swing at” Obama during the debate.
“That brother has slugged me a couple times. I assure you President Obama has nothing to worry about,” Josh Romney quipped. “You really don’t like to see your dad get beat up by the media or President Obama or whatever it is, so you take it pretty personally. But I think that was just something he was saying off the cuff and I assure you he didn’t mean it.”
The political dinner is named for the former, 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.
In keeping with tradition, both candidates have prepared lighthearted fare for the event. That was the case almost precisely four years ago when Obama and GOP nominee John McCain poked fun at themselves and each other just a day after an intense presidential debate at Hofstra University on Long Island.
As in 2008, this year’s dinner follows a confrontational debate, also at Hofstra, lending an air of drama to the pivot from acrimony to humor.
What’s more, the dinner’s host is Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has clashed with the Obama administration over contraception provisions in the new health care law. Dolan has said he received “stacks of mail” protesting the dinner invitation to Obama. But Dolan has sought to avoid playing political favorites, even delivering benedictions at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer.
Romney and Obama were traveling to New York, a state firmly behind Obama, as their campaigns mounted an aggressive appeal for undecided female voters.
The president has been mocking Romney’s remark during Tuesday’s debate that, as Massachusetts governor, he received “whole binders full of women” as he sought to diversify his administration. “We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented women,” Obama said Wednesday.
Romney made his own pitch to women.
“This president has failed American’s women,” he told a crowd in Chesapeake, Va., Wednesday. “They’ve suffered in terms of getting jobs,” he added, saying that 3.6 million more of them now are in poverty than when Obama took office.
His campaign aired a television commercial that seemed designed to soften his opposition to abortion while urging women to keep pocketbook issues uppermost in their minds when they vote.
Obama’s campaign responded in an ad Thursday to air in Virginia that featured video of Romney in a GOP primary debate saying he would “be delighted” to sign a bill banning all abortions as president. A female voice responds in the ad, “Ban all abortions? Only if you vote for him.”
On the celebrity front, Obama picked up the endorsement of rock star Bruce Springsteen, who also backed the Democrat in 2008 and Thursday campaigned for Obama in Ohio with former President Bill Clinton.
“For 30 years I’ve been writing about the distance between the American dream and American reality,” Springsteen said, reading from a statement on his music stand. “Our vote is the one principle way we get to determine that distance.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)