By Philip Elliott / Bedford, N.H.
Updated: August 28, 2015 8:50 PM ET

Sen. Lindsey Graham is taking aim at Republican rival John Kasich, saying the Ohio Governor is “not ready to be Commander in Chief.”

The South Carolina Republican and White House hopeful told roughly a dozen New Hampshire voters on Friday that Kasich disqualified himself from the presidency when he said he supported spending cuts that have impacted the military. Graham, a foreign policy hawk, has long opposed the $85 billion in spending cuts that automatically kicked in when Congress failed to reach a budget deal.

Kasich, a former House Budget Committee Chairman, said told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he wanted to reform the Pentagon more broadly and that meant more than just undoing the budget cuts, which are deeply unpopular in both parties. “The sequester doesn’t matter to me,” he said.

Graham used his trip to New Hampshire—his second in as many weekends—to criticize Kasich, a relatively new entrant to the race but someone who is outpacing Graham in the polls.

“John Kasich is a good friend of mine,” Graham said before turning to his criticism. “He said he has no problem with sequestration.”

Graham went on: “These are mandatory, across-the-board cuts to defense that will accumulate to the point that, by 2021, we will be spending half of what we’d normally spend on the Defense Department.”

The cuts, he said, would hurt the United States’ national security.

“As the enemy increases in its ability, our approach is to disarm,” Graham said. “If the next president doesn’t understand that these cuts are killing us, in terms of defending ourselves, you’re not ready to be Commander in Chief…. This is a cocktail for disaster.”

A Kasich spokesman dismissed Graham’s criticism. “The Governor wants to life the sequester for military and spend more if necessary, but he still wants to reform the Pentagon,” Chris Schrimpf said. “So the sequester doesn’t matter to him in that he still wants to reform the Pentagon, but is against across-the-board cuts.”

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