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EXETER, N.H. — After twice flirting with presidential bids in previous years, former New York governor George Pataki officially entered the White House race Thursday, hoping to differentiate himself as a Northeastern Republican with a more moderate stance on social issues.

Pataki announced his campaign for president at the old town hall where Abraham Lincoln once spoke and former US representative Ron Paul of Texas and former governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah launched their presidential campaigns four years ago.

He has been out of office since 2006, but in an interview, he said he is running this time because he is prepared.


“I am ready,” Pataki said. “I just know that my life has prepared me for this moment. I can lead this country and win this election. And the need to change Washington has never been greater.”

Pataki is the only Republican among the eight candidates who have declared presidential campaigns to support laws granting same-sex marriage.

“I believe in limited government,” Pataki said. “I don’t want politicians telling me how to live my life. I don’t want them to tell me what type of health care I have to have. I don’t want them telling our schools how to educate every single child. I don’t want them in Washington deciding what the rules on marriage should be for every state in America. Leave it to the states. Let the people in those states decide.”

To be sure, in Pataki’s announcement speech, he touched on popular GOP themes: cut taxes, project a strong foreign policy, and oppose programs like the Affordable Care Act and the Common Core educational standards.

While Pataki has struggled to break from the pack nationally, he has gotten some traction in the Granite State, where he has focused his campaigns.

For example, of the 14 Republican state senators, four have endorsed a presidential candidate. Two of those four have endorsed Pataki. Pataki also has one of the largest campaign steering committees in New Hampshire. Many of the participants attended a private reception at the Exeter Inn Wednesday night, when they were served lobster rolls.


Notably, some of the state’s well-known libertarian-minded Republicans are listening to Pataki. Among those inside the sweltering town hall event was John Babiarz, a former libertarian candidate for governor.

Babiarz backed Ron Paul in the past, and said Pataki is possibly more libertarian than US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on other issues. He also gives Pataki credit for focusing his campaign on the Granite State.

“Pataki is on my list of candidates to watch,” said Babiarz. “He has willing to take questions and lets you know where he stands.”

James Pindell can be reached at James.Pindell@globe.com.