President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Carolyn Kaster/Chuck Burton/AP)

Once again, the race for the White House provided Viacom-owned CMT network with the opening gag for its “CMT Music Awards.”

President Obama and Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney each taped appearances for the opening of Wednesday night’s trophy show, which, according to conventional wisdom, plays strong in the Heartland.

Obama and the presumptive GOP nominee are both “in on the joke,” CMT network President Brian Philips told the press Wednesday, adding bipartisanly: “They’re each great sports.”

The “joke” went like this:

At the top of the show, after a Lady Antebellum kickoff, various TV news and infotainment on-air talent -- Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Steve Kroft, Maria Menounos, Mario Lopez, etc -- weighed in on “disturbing reports” this year’s trophy show hosts, Toby Keith and Kristen Bell, do not want to share the spotlight. Naturally, Obama and Romney are asked to weigh in because, well, we don’t actually know.

“This is one of the toughest decisions I have had to make since I’ve been in office,” Obama said stiffly, as if he knew the material was all wrong. “But, I have decided -- I want them both,” he added, anyway.

“I thought the presidential election was a tough race, but it’s nothing compared to the politics of the ‘CMT Music Awards’,” Romney chimed in, even more stiffly, which we didn’t think was possible.

“I think I have a solution though,” Romney continued dubiously. “I propose Toby and Kristen co-host. See, I just put two people back to work. You’re welcome America.”

Note to presidential candidates in 2016: demand better writers.

Four years ago, Democratic hopefuls Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as Republican candidate John McCain and Donald Trump, participated in a taped opening bit for the annual awards special. In that bit, the three candidates and Trump were seen phoning around, trying to score tickets to the trophy show, which, viewers were asked to believe, were impossibly hard to score.

“I’m a billionaire many times over, and I have really great hair. What I am not is a magician,” Trump was seen telling country crooner Trace “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” Adkins, who had contacted his former “Celebrity Apprentice” boss in his own desperation to snag tickets.

That 2008 “CMT Music Awards” telecast clocked an average of 2.8 million viewers, up from 2.1 million in ’07.