Al Smith dinner bound to be especially awkward for Clinton, Trump

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Moderator Chris Wallace concluded Wednesday night's final presidential debate with a note of relief for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who refused to even shake hands at the beginning of the night. "This is a final time, probably to both of your delight, that you're going to be on the stage together in this campaign," Wallace said.

But they will share the stage one more time, just 24 hours after their last meeting.

The white-tie Al Smith Dinner, the major fundraiser for the Catholic charities connected to the Archdiocese of New York, has attracted presidential candidates for years and traditionally offers a rare moment of levity in the midst of heated campaigns where candidates poke fun at each other and themselves.

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Clinton and Trump face off in the final presidential debate
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Clinton and Trump face off in the final presidential debate
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the third and final US presidential debate with Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is seen on screens speaking during the final presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at the University of Nevada October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton begin their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Republican nominee Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton debates with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (Mark Ralston/Pool via AP)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Republican nominee Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wait to begin their final debate at the University of Nevada October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Meg Whitman (C), Hewlett-Packard president and chief executive officer, and retired basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2nd R) attend the third and final presidential debate between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic contender Hillary Clinton at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas on October 19, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump points toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as he answers a question during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton exchanges views Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (not pictured) at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Debate moderator Chris Wallace smiles back at the audiencee before Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton keep their distance and do not shake hands at the start of the their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks as Republican nominee Donald Trump looks on during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) and US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrive for the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (R) and Republican nominee Donald Trump arrive for the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton steps on stage to debate Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump adjusts his microphone while he listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Donald Trump Jr. sits between his wife Vanessa (L) and his brother Eric Trump (R) during the third and final debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (not pictured) at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks onstage for the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrive on stage for their final debate at the University of Nevada October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives on stage for the third and final presidential debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas on October 19, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican nominee Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton keep their distance and do not shake hands at the start of the their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool
Chelsea Clinton, her father former U.S. president Bill Clinton, and her husband Marc Mezvinsky arrive before Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Melania Trump arrives for the third and final debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Ivanka Trump takes her seat before the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Melania Trump (R) greets vice presidential candidate Mike Pence before the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Debate moderator Chris Wallace speaks prior to the third and final US presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Eric Trump takes his seat before the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Fox News modeator Chris Wallace speaks before the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Actor Ted Danson and his wife actress Mary Steenburgen sit before Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Ralston/Pool
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton arrives for the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican nominee Donald Trump gestures as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton looks on during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (R) and Republican nominee Donald Trump walk off the stage after the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
People watch the third presidential debate between presidential debate between US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Trump International Hotel October 19, 2016 in Washington, D.C. / AFP / ZACH GIBSON (Photo credit should read ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)
People watch the third presidential debate between US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is pictured at The Hawk 'n' Dove bar October 19, 2016 in Washington, D.C. / AFP / ZACH GIBSON (Photo credit should read ZACH GIBSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton waves from the stage following the third and final US presidential debate with Republican nominee Donald Trump (background) at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks off stage as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton departs the stage following the third and final US presidential debate with Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP / Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) debates with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures to the crowd as she walks off stage as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump smiles after the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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It can be an awkward event in any election year, but exponentially more so this time with two candidates who dislike each other more than perhaps any others in modern history.

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At the 2012 dinner, Mitt Romney poked fun at a Barack Obama gaffe by saying the president would tell St. Peter "you didn't build that" after he founded the church. Obama joked about Romney's wealt by saying that while he went shopping "at some stores in midtown," Romney went shopping "for some stores in midtown."

But the candidates typically close on some gracious praise for their rival.

"We don't carry the burden of disliking one another," Romney said of Obama, whom the Republican said "has many gifts and a beautiful family that would make any man proud."

"In our country," Romney continued, "you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case against their policies without any ill will."

Obama, for his part, said he "admire[d]" Romney's family. "We may have different political perspectives, but I think — in fact, I'm certain — that we share the hope that the next four years will reflect the same decency and the same willingness to come together for a higher purpose," Obama added.

Related: November Surprise? Trump's Debate Warning Threatens to Split GOP

It's almost impossible to imagine Clinton or Trump saying something similar of each other Thursday night.

"In theory, it's supposed to be like the handshake before the big game," said David Litt, a former Obama speechwriter who worked on the president's 2012 Al Smith speech. "Unfortunately, this year that seems absurd."

For Clinton, there's little desire to even joke about Trump, at the risk of normalizing him, especially after he refused to commit to accepting the results of the election in Wednesday night's debate.

"She has a really tough needle to thread," Litt said. "She has to poke fun in some ways at Donald Trump without making it seem like his comments are just a big joke."

Skipping the dinner would mean running afoul with Timothy Dolan, the powerful Catholic Cardinal, as well as the city and state's political establishment — a non-starter, especially for two New York candidates.

"Offending the church by not appearing was just something you did not do," said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York Democratic strategist who said historically, the dinner has been a critical part of any candidates' strategies for winning over Catholic voters nationwide.

Walter Mondale's decision to skip the dinner in favor of debate prep in 1984 was seen as damaging, but at least wasn't booed like Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Related: Final Presidential Debate: 11 Moments the Internet Went Wild For

But Sheinkopf said Clinton may be better off just ignoring Trump. "She doesn't have to talk to Donald Trump or about Donald Trump at all," he said, suggesting Clinton focus on the dinner's charitable mission.

Trump's approach is more of a mystery. He's shown little appetite for the kind of self-deprecating humor that makes a successful Al Smith appearance. And his harsh jabs at Clinton may feel out of place feet surrounded by Catholic prelates.

The room will also be packed with many of Trump's archenemies. Beyond Clinton, there will be Michael Bloomberg, who excoriated Trump at the democratic National Convention, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been investigating Trump's charity.

Trump is no stranger to New York politics, however, and will have former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of his closest allies, with him. And he's closer to the Catholic church than Clinton on the key issue of abortion.

Meanwhile, both will have plenty of other targets for roasting, like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who may end on the receiving end of jokes they don't want to level at each other.

But Clinton and Trump will have one other obstacle to navigate: The traditional photo op of the two candidates shaking hands.

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