"Romney could never do a night like this"

At the Vanity Fair/Bloomberg after-party, with its mix of high and low-level celebrities like George Clooney and Ivanka Trump (The New Yorker’s own party was the night before), I spoke to a Republican operative who is a veteran of Presidential campaigns. He worried out loud that “Romney could never do a night like this.” Even with the best jokes scrolling down on the best teleprompters money can buy, there’s a certain social agility that some have, and others can’t fake…

Obama’s jokes are more in line with the Bush style—but replacing the preppie cadence with athlete patter. There’s a kind of trash-talking, locker-room jangle to his best lines. It’s easy to see that he likes poking fun at his adversaries, and does it naturally. It’s unclear whether he’s equally at home being poked fun at back. But whether winking conspiratorially into the camera last night when saying that he was “born in Hawaii”—a little red meat for the Birthers—or riffing about Jay-Z, or pretending to flush the toilet in his ostensibly “off-camera, off-mic” moment, he mocked himself and his opponents (he said that the airport-hangar-sized Hilton ballroom would count as a “fixer-upper” for Romney) with ease and style. Humor, especially in hard times, is a tricky thing, but without it, the leaders seem remote, robotic, and plodding.