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Mar 17, 2015 12:42 PM

Graham, Pataki, jab themselves and rivals, at St. Patrick's Day roast

NH1 Political Director - NH1.com

NASHUA - Two long shots in the race for the Republican presidential nomination used some self-depreciating humor as they addressed a major Saint Patrick's Day breakfast in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

"George Pataki - me being here today has made you the frontrunner. This is a great organization. How could you just get me and George," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina," as he spoke Tuesday morning at the 24th annual "Wild Irish Breakfast" in Nashua.

Graham and Pataki, a former three-term New York State governor, are both seriously considering bids for the GOP nomination.

"It's hard for me to be funny this early in the morning. Actually it's hard for me to be funny anytime," said Pataki.

Mentioning Donald Trump, who is also once again mulling a White House run, Pataki added that "he's the only person in America who has flirted with running for president longer than I have."

After the roast, both men talked to NH1 about how New Hampshire may help their presidential chances.

Pataki said the Granite State's retail type politics boosts someone like him, adding that "the personal contact is more important than the 30 second sound bite on a TV commercial."

And Graham said that "New Hampshire is the antidote to big money and I shall be here a lot."

Both men spoke at the event, along Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, Nashua Chamber of Commerce President Chris Williams, who served for the first time as emcee or "Blarney Master" of the gathering, and Gov. Maggie Hassan, the lone Democrat on the dais. The event benefited the PLUS (People Learning Useful Skills) Company, a non-profit which "helps empower individuals with developmental skills by providing support and services that maximize independence."

Graham fires off one-liners

Graham, who's known for his irreverence, didn't let anyone down.

"This is a weird breakfast, even by South Carolina standards," he said as he kicked off his remarks.

He fired off some one-liners directed at possible rivals for the GOP nomination. Talking about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who's expected to break fundraising records in the first quarter of this year, Graham said "Jeb couldn't be here today and you gotta be glad, because it would have been $10,00 a plate."

After he asked Democrats sitting in the crowd to raise their hands, Graham said that "you better be glad (Wisconsin Gov.) Scott Walker's not here because he'd beat you up."

And talking about Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who Monday finished up a two day swing through New Hampshire, Graham jabbed that "Cruz couldn't be here because he's building a fence on the Canadian border, keeping his family out."

Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother.

Throughout the event Graham was needled about his recent admission that he's never sent an email.

"I've have to say though that some were taken aback recently when Graham proclaimed on a Sunday political talk show that he had never sent an email in his entire life," said Hassan.

"I must admit that when I heard this revelation I said to myself ‘well now we know at least two things that very clearly separate Lindsey Graham from Hillary Clinton: experience with email and the realistic opportunity of becoming president'," the governor added.

Graham also brought up the controversy over Clinton's exclusive use of a private email account during her four years as secretary of state, as he poked at his own lack of email use, saying "I didn't think Bill (Clinton) and I had anything in common, but I found one thing: neither one of us has emailed Hillary."

The former President has said he's only sent two emails in his entire life, both coming when was serving in the White House in the 1990's.

Pataki gives as good as he gets

Hassan also ribbed Pataki, saying "I'm having a lot of fun with Sen. Graham this morning, I don't mean to ignore Gov. Pataki's presence in New Hampshire. After all he has plenty of Republican primary voters doing that already."

Pataki, not well-known for his lighter side, was surprisingly amusing.

Following the senator from South Carolina at the podium, Pataki said "Sen. Graham, you were absolutely hilarious, but it's not that hard when you have Sen. McCain writing all your material."

"You've all heard how Sen. Graham has claimed he has never ever used an email. I'm skeptical. You know I emailed Sen. Graham earlier this week to make sure that we weren't using the same jokes and I didn't get a response, which was not surprising. But this morning I got this very strong worded letter from you and 46 of your friends in the Senate," Pataki said, as a note (with block letters) that said "Pataki get out of New Hampshire" appeared on a big screen.

"Senator, I really don't think you should have sent that letter."

And Pataki took a few jabs at another probable GOP presidential contender, Chris Christie, over the New Jersey governor's George Washington Bridge controversy.

Talking about Hassan's desire to bring a casino to New Hampshire, Pataki said "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."

As Pataki spoke, a photo of a shuttered casino in Atlantic City appeared. He followed by adding that "the only problem would be trying to get it across the George Washington Bridge."

Graham, Pataki, tout New Hampshire

After the event, Pataki said "If you can't laugh at yourself, you don't have much of a sense of humor."

And he told NH1 that "one of the things that's terrific about New Hampshire being the first primary is that it's so retail. People want to meet you. They want to shake your hand. They want to sit down across the coffee table and not just listen to what you have to say but have you listen to what they they're saying. And I think that's the best type of politics."

Pataki's made numerous trips to New Hampshire and says he plans to be back soon, but admitted he won't be rushed into making a decision whether he'll formally launch a campaign.

"I don't have a timetable. I've been here a number of times and I'll just continue to come back and listen to people, talk to people, let them know my thoughts, and make a decision at the appropriate time, whenever that might be," Pataki said.

After the breakfast, Pataki held private meetings in Manchester before returning to Nashua for a meet and greet at an American Legion gathering.

Graham chatted with NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn before the breakfast, and afterwards an adviser told NH1 that the senator held private meetings with local GOP lawmakers, activists, and business leaders.

Graham vowed to NH1 that "I will be up here a lot. This is a place that is an antidote to big money. If it wasn't for New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, you could buy the White House. The only way a guy like me would have a chance is to come here, make fun of myself and others, and do a lot of town hall meetings and check me out as to whether or not I'm prepared to be commander-in-chief on day one, cause I think the last guy we hired, quite frankly, didn't have the background for the job he has today."

And Graham, who's long served on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is known for his foreign police expertise, told reporters that "this is going to be a national security election. We're going to be looking at somebody who can actually bring us together and not talk about it. Governors have a lot of good things to say about leading a state. At the end of the day I've spent a lot of my time trying to defend the threats we face as a nation."

"I'll put my record of trying to solve problems with Democrats and Republicans against anybody in town or any governor anywhere," Graham added.

As for his famous sense of humor, Graham explained that "my dad owned a bar. And way you do well in a bar is keep people laughing cause they keep drinking. And when they can't understand your jokes you cut them off. So humor is a good thing to have as a politician."


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