Bob Dole extols his wife

War veterans get free coffee and pastries at Pat's Coffee Shop every Thursday morning, and so it was for former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole when he entered the door.

“I can't see what kind of roll that is, but I'm coming at it,” the Kansas Republican and World War II veteran quipped before enjoying a warmed pineapple muffin.

Dole visited the shop for more than good eats: He spent Thursday campaigning in the Charlotte area for his wife, Elizabeth, who is running to keep her U.S. Senate seat.

Polls show that Democrat Kay Hagan, a five-term state senator from Greensboro, has moved into a tight race with Dole, who held a double-digit lead as recently as July.

Bob Dole also spoke at a noon Kiwanis luncheon in Charlotte before visiting folks on the streets of Matthews and Mint Hill and greeting party faithful at the North Mecklenburg Republican Headquarters in Cornelius.

At Pat's Coffee Shop, Dole said he's visited the state three times a week during the campaign to support his wife's candidacy.

This year's battle is particularly tough because “Chuck Schumer is putting $10 million into this race,” Dole said of the U.S. senator from New York and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman. “Elizabeth doesn't have $10 million.”

At the shop, which owner and Vietnam War veteran Richard Warren has adorned with military uniforms, photos, letters and banners, Dole mingled with about 60 veterans and guests for nearly two hours.

He told them he wasn't there to talk politics.

Dole wanted the eight World War II veterans in attendance to know about the Honor Flights that will fly them for free to the National World War II Memorial in Washington. “You have to get up early (to catch the flights), but we're used to getting up three or more times a night,” he joked.

Dole also fought tears, telling how he greets memorial visitors every Wednesday and Saturday he's in the capitol. “We call it Kleenex Alley,” he said, quickly recovering and prompting more laughter.

Dole also discussed his efforts to better fund veterans' health care, but he was mostly lighthearted.

When Dole noticed the World War II and Korean War service emblems on the hat of Rod MacFarquhar, 83, of Sherrills Ford, he joked, “So he gets two doughnuts.”