Truce as candidates play for laughs

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have poked fun at themselves and each other for a charitable cause, two days after attacking each other in their second debate.

The pause for jokes in the tight race for the November 6 election took place at the Alfred E Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York to benefit deprived children.

The two candidates are running neck and neck in the polls and Mr Obama is hoping his strong performance in Tuesday's debate will help him regain the momentum he lost following his poor showing in the first debate two weeks earlier.

The lighthearted evening was sandwiched between that debate and the final event on Monday night in South Florida.

"I learned there are worse things that can happen to you on your anniversary than forgetting to buy a gift," Mr Obama joked, referring to his poor performance the first time around.

Mr Romney, who spoke before Mr Obama and appeared at ease on stage, playfully jabbed at the president, saying both candidates have crucial people on whom they rely. "I have my beautiful wife, Ann, he's got Bill Clinton," he said.

Addressing the elegantly dressed crowd, Mr Romney, a millionaire many times over, said: "It's nice to finally relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house".

Mr Obama chided Mr Romney about his wealth, saying: "Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown."

Mr Obama said he has been preparing for the final debate, which will focus on foreign policy. "Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden," he said, referring to the military mission that killed the mastermind of the September 11 2001 terror attacks.

The dinner was overseen by Cardinal Timothy M Dolan, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has clashed with the Obama administration over contraception provisions in the country's new health care law.