NEW YORK (AFP) — The pitched battle for the White House briefly made way for good humor and a good cause as Barack Obama and John McCain traded jibes at a black-tie charity roast in New York.
Twenty-four hours after their last debate before the November 4 election, the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls were the star turns at the gala dinner Thursday in the Waldorf Astoria hotel to raise money for poor children.
McCain went first, announcing he had just fired his entire campaign staff and replaced them with Joe the Plumber, the Ohio entrepreneur who became a household name literally overnight after McCain invoked him in Wednesday's debate.
"Joe the Plumber recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses," he added, alluding to his many homes around the United States.
McCain moved on to find humor in other campaign issues:
-- On dubious voter registration cards: "In Florida, they even turned up an ACORN registration form that bore the name of one Mickey Mouse. We're checking the paw prints, although I might let that one go. I'm pretty sure the big rat's a Republican."
-- On his underdog status: "There are signs of hope, even in the most unexpected places, even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats. I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me. I'm delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary!"
-- On the way he referred to Obama in their second debate: "This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all, it began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as 'the one.' Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him "that one." He doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me -- George Bush."
McCain, 72, concluded by putting rough-and-tumble campaign rhetoric on hold to salute Obama, 47, for being the first black presidential candidate from a major political party with a real stab at the White House.
"Senator Obama talks about making history, and he's made quite a bit of it already," said the Arizona senator.
"There was a time when the mere invitation of an African-American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage and an insult in many quarters."
"Today, it's a world away from the crude and prideful bigotry of that time, and good riddance. I can't wish my opponent luck -- but I do wish him well."
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