Two days after their contentious debate, U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will meet again in a far more congenial setting Thursday night in New York City.
The two candidates have been invited to an annual dinner hosted by the city's Catholic Archdiocese at the luxury Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The dinner is named after Al Smith, a former Democratic governor of New York state and the first Roman Catholic presidential nominee in 1928. Unlike their heated exchanges in Tuesday's debate at New York's Hofstra University, Obama and Romney will deliver humorous speeches in keeping with the spirit and tradition of the event.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the New York Archdiocese, says he received countless e-mails urging him to cancel the invitation to the president because of the new health care law's mandate for insurance companies to cover the cost of birth control. The Catholic Church is opposed to birth control.
But Cardinal Dolan has avoided coming down in favor of either candidate this year, delivering closing prayers at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
The dinner raises millions of dollars for poor and needy children in the diocese. Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy and Republican Vice President Richard Nixon were the first pair of White House candidates to attend the event in 1960. Then-Senator Obama appeared in 2008 along with Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee.
The president will make a campaign stop in the northeastern state of New Hampshire Thursday before attending the dinner. Rock legend Bruce Springsteen will perform on Obama's behalf at rallies in Ohio and Iowa. The president campaigned in both of those states Wednesday, seeking to build on the momentum of his strong performance at Tuesday's debate.
Instant voter opinion polls by several news outlets, including CNN, showed Obama the winner over the former Massachusetts governor, a reversal from the first debate earlier this month, where he delivered a lackluster performance.
Romney is taking Thursday off after holding two campaign rallies in Virginia Wednesday.
The third and final presidential debate will be held next Monday in Florida, and will focus exclusively on foreign policy.