WASHINGTON (AP) — The presidential campaign, heavy on finger-pointing and recrimination, is taking a brief but abrupt 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.

In keeping with tradition, both candidates have prepared lighthearted fare for the fundraising event organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children. 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 comes in the wake of a confrontational debate, also at Hofstra, lending an air of drama to the pivot from acrimony to humor.

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