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Republicans Want New Hampshire to Know They Still Love the Patriots

2 minute read

The New England Patriots are not in the Super Bowl this Sunday. But don’t tell that to the Republicans running for President.

Courting voters ahead of next week’s pivotal primary in New Hampshire—as much a part of Patriots country as anywhere else—the candidates are declaring themselves fans of the team that lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. And fans of its quarterback.

In a Boston radio interview on Wednesday, Republican Donald Trump, who has never been short of praise for Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady, called him “the finest guy.”

“New England, the whole area there, they are very lucky to have Tom,” Trump said.

But asked if Brady would campaign for him in New Hampshire, Trump said he wouldn’t ask the quarterback to do that right now.

“I think he would if I asked him to,” Trump said. “I don’t know if I want to ask him to do that, you know. Right now he doesn’t feel so great because of what happened [in the AFC Championship]. He was really mauled. I’ll tell you the offensive line was not exactly giving him lots of protection, unfortunately.”

Brady found himself at the center of controversy last year amid the Deflategate scandal. Republicans sought this week to tie Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to the investigation—which was deeply unpopular in Patriots territory—by highlighting donations the former Secretary of State received from a lawyer who investigated the Patriots Boston.com reports. Brady was suspended as a result of the investigation, but a federal judge later overturned his suspension.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich complimented Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on Wednesday when asked about his short list of vice presidential contenders.

“I have to say that, Belichick was on my list,” Kasich said in an interview with NBC News.

Even Marco Rubio, who frequently touts his loyalty to the Miami Dolphins, joked last month that Brady and Belichick would be prime additions to his administration, suggesting a cabinet appointment would be the best way to sideline Brady. “Belichick,” Rubio said, “would be defense secretary or something. He’ll be blitzing ISIS. It will be awesome.”

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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com