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Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry laughs during Republican Presidential Debate OaklUniversity Auburn Hills Mich. Wednesday Nov. 9 2011.

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry laughs during a Republican Presidential Debate at Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Updated: April 27, 2012 8:18AM

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney was the punching bag at the Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner Saturday, where Rick Perry, who flopped as a GOP presidential candidate, was the hit with a hilarious routine.

The Texas governor reminded the audience, “with all my gaffes, people forgot I once led the Republican primary. It was the three most exhilarating hours of my life. Awesome.”

On having to quit his White House bid, Perry said, “Here is the hardest part for me. It was the weakest Republican field in history, and they kicked my butt.”

And on Romney, now the GOP front-runner — who was not at the dinner — Perry laid it on: “I like Mitt Romney as much as one really good-looking man can like a really good-looking man and not break Texas law.”

Perry recalled sharing a debate stage with Romney.

“I keep waiting for Mitt to say, ‘Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?’ ”

The annual dinner — a white-tie and gown affair — was the 127th for the media club, featuring members in skits mocking Republicans and Democrats. (Disclosure: I am a member and had a bit part.) The departure of former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley — now back in Chicago — was lamented in one of the parodies.

Perry spoke for the Republicans; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, did stand-up for the Democrats, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pinch-hit for President Barack Obama, in Korea for a nuclear summit.

Zinged Panetta, a former congressman who switched parties earlier in his career, “Much like Mitt Romney, I used to be a moderate Republican. You can find them in the Smithsonian.”

Wasserman Schultz’s zinger played off of Romney’s flip flops.

“It looks like Mitt Romney finally has this thing wrapped up. And you know what you call a Republican primary where Mitt stands alone? A two-man race,” she said.

Wearing a knock-out slinky form-fitting dress, Wasserman Schultz said she found what she called her “silver linings” — two of them — following a double mastectomy for her breast cancer.

“I say, hell yes they’re fake. The real ones tried to kill me. Although the fake ones feel very real. At least that’s what the TSA agents tell me.”

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