01:25 - Source: CNN
Fiorina defends Rose Bowl tweet

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Republicans are gathering in Nashua, New Hampshire on Saturday

The meeting comes one day before the New England Patriots play in the AFC championship game

Nashua, New Hampshire CNN —  

As the New Hampshire Republican primary looms, many attendees at a GOP gathering in Nashua on Saturday had their minds on a contest coming up even sooner: The AFC title game on Sunday featuring the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos.

And presidential candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich, who were campaigning in the Granite State, were eager to show their support for the home team.

“I am indeed rooting for the Patriots on Sunday, but not for the reasons that you think,” the Florida senator and husband to a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader told the audience. But he couched his support by saying another championship ring for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady might inspire him to retire and thus weaken the Dolphins’ AFC East rival.

Later, Rubio modified his stump speech on what the American dream should include, listing “Patriots season tickets” alongside owning a home and retiring with dignity.

Kasich, who spotlighted the fact that he’s polling second in the state, also made sure to tack on a sentence supporting the team at the tail end of his stump speech.

“Tomorrow, I’m rooting for the Patriots,” he said to laughs and cheers from the crowd, many of whom crossed state lines to travel up to Nashua, which is just about an hour away from Boston.

But there is political peril to pandering too nakedly – particularly when it comes to football.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who also spoke at Saturday’s event, enjoyed a healthy amount of ribbing on social media for backing Iowa in the Rose Bowl over her alma mater, Stanford, earlier this month.

She later told CNN’s Dana Bash her tweet backing Iowa was all in good fun and “tongue-in-cheek.”

Six Republican presidential hopefuls – as well as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s wife, Mary Pat – are attending the “First in the Nation Town Hall” in Nashua. Not in attendance, however, are the two leading Republican candidates in New Hampshire – Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – who are well ahead of the rest of the pack, according to a CNN/WMUR poll released this week.