NEW YORK – Sen. John McCain (search) said Thursday at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner that he hasn't decided whether he's running for president, "so please just stop asking me."
"Relax and enjoy the evening, Governor Pataki," he concluded, to a roar of laughter from the audience at the $1,000-a-plate fundraiser. Gov. George Pataki (search), too, has been considering a run for the highest office in the land.
Standing on a dais crowded with politicians, the Arizona Republican teased several of them, as well as the monied guests at the event sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York.
"It's like a veritable 'Who's Who' of people soon to be indicted by Eliot Spitzer (search)," he said, referring to the state's hard-charging attorney general.
McCain described the notables in attendance as "the haves, the have-mores, the have-more-than-thats, and finally my good friend Mike Bloomberg (search)."
The mayor got the loudest ovation at the event, prompting Smith's great-grandson, Alfred E. Smith IV, to joke: "Looks like that race is over."
Recent opinion polls put Bloomberg 30 points ahead of Democratic challenger Fernando Ferrer (search), who did not attend the dinner.
The fundraiser has become a political event that attracts a wide range of people from across the political spectrum. Al Gore (search) and George W. Bush (search) addressed the crowd weeks before the 2000 presidential election.
Smith was a Democratic New York governor who in 1928 became the first Roman Catholic to be a major party's candidate for president. Republican Herbert Hoover won the race. Smith died in 1944.
McCain closed with a call for less partisan bickering in Washington.
"Our differences should not become more important to us than our shared love of this country," he said.
Proceeds from the event go to health clinics, nursing homes and hospitals.