Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have tried to one-up each other on issues, character, experience, judgment, temperament and values.
On Thursday night, they tried to out-do each other in the humor department, and Democratic presidential nominee Clinton came out slightly ahead. Republican candidate Trump was so heavy-handed at an event known for its light-heartedness that he was booed by the crowd repeatedly.
The occasion was the white-tie Al Smith dinner at the posh Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, an event which benefits Roman Catholic charities. It's named after the former governor of New York who was the first Catholic presidential candidate of a major party in the United States. Smith, a Democrat, lost to Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928, but his style as a "happy warrior" struck a chord with many New Yorkers. In the past, self-deprecation has been the key to success at the dinner, but it was in short supply Thursday night, especially for Trump.
Many of the New York billionaire's jokes fell flat, and by the end of his remarks he had shifted from trying to be funny and entered attack mode against Clinton. He called her corrupt and some of his lines drew jeers and boos from the crowd.
He said this was "the first time Hillary is sitting down and speaking to major corporate leaders and not getting paid for it."
He noted, "Last night [at his final debate with Clinton] I called Hillary a nasty woman. But this stuff is all relative. After listening to Hillary rattle on and on and on, I don't think so badly of Rosie O'Donnell [a comedian he has mocked] any more. In fact, I'm actually starting to like Rosie a lot."
And Trump said, "Here she is in public, pretending not to hate Catholics."
On a positive note, Trump got a good reaction when he referred to his wife Melania's speech to the Republican National Convention last summer in which she cribbed lines from an address by first lady Michelle Obama. "Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it, it's fantastic," Trump said. "They think she's absolutely great. My wife Melania gives the exact same speech and people get on her case, and I don't get it!"
Clinton started her remarks with the self-deprecation that usually works best at such "roast-like" events. "I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here," she said, noting that the sponsors should be grateful because "usually I charge a lot for speeches like this."
But she also got in her digs, and drew some groans from the audience in the process. She said Trump sees the Statue of Liberty and rates her "a four," adding, "Maybe a five if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair."
Referring to Trump's raising questions about her health, Clinton thanked Trump for sending a car to take her to the dinner. "Actually, it was a hearse," she said.