NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Republican presidential hopefuls George Pataki and Lindsey Graham took playful shots Tuesday at their better-known, better-funded GOP rivals at an annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast roast in New Hampshire.
"Jeb (Bush) couldn't be here today and you better be glad, 'cause it would have been $10,000 a plate," Graham said. "(Ted) Cruz couldn't be here 'cause he's building a fence."
Pataki, a former New York governor, and Graham, a U.S. senator from South Carolina, plan to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire over the next few months, trying to build the support and financial backing needed to mount a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Pataki has visited the state about half a dozen times this year, while Graham made his first trip last week. Graham on Tuesday referenced his good friend and two-time New Hampshire primary winner, Arizona Sen. John McCain, saying, "He is my best and, quite frankly, only supporter."
While spending most of their time roasting their potential rivals, Graham and Pataki themselves were also the butt of jokes.
New Hampshire's Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan needled Graham for his recent statement that he's never sent an email and Pataki for his perennial exploration of a presidential candidacy.
Graham, she said, is different from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in two ways: "Experience with email, and the realistic possibility of being president."
The lighthearted remarks from both Pataki and Graham at times hit upon serious problems faced by their potential rivals. Pataki, for example, took multiple jabs at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie when talking about Hassan's desire to bring a casino into New Hampshire.
"I know Gov. Christie will be back here in New Hampshire and he can get you a really good deal on an Atlantic City casino if you'd like one of them," Pataki said. "The only problem would be trying to get it across the George Washington Bridge."
Graham, meanwhile, brought up Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's record of taking on the state's public employee unions.
"Any Democrats here?" Graham asked. "You better be glad Scott Walker's not here, 'cause he would beat you up."
Speaking with reporters afterward, Graham said he thinks Walker is a "great candidate" and his comments were meant in the spirit of the event.
Clinton's use of a personal email account while serving as secretary of state received top billing in both Republicans' jibes. Pataki's time as governor of New York overlapped with Clinton's term in the U.S. Senate, and he joked that they emailed often before pulling up pretend exchanges on a screen.
"Pataki — I am leaving the White House dead broke, can you line up a few six figure speeches for me?" one read, while another said, "Can you believe Brian Williams stole my line about coming under enemy fire while landing overseas?"
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