GREENVILLE, S.C. – In the end, Mitt Romney decided not to go whole hog against Newt Gingrich.
Romney avoided a potentially uncomfortable situation with Gingrich on Saturday morning by showing up earlier than expected at Tommy’s Ham House in Greenville. The two campaigns had accidentally booked events there at the same time on Friday night, leading to a brief media and Twitter frenzy about whether a porky showdown was in the offing.
Romney arrived at Tommy’s at 10 a.m. after stopping at his campaign headquarters. His campaign had said he would arrive either at 10:30 or 11, but an aide insisted that the decision to stop earlier had nothing to do with avoiding his bitter rival. “We see Newt all the time; we don’t get to see the voters of South Carolina every day,” the aide said.
Romney climbed on a cooler and briefly thanked the diners – many of whom were his volunteers and staffers – for showing up. When a woman shouted, “Thank you for paying for breakfast,” the ex-Massachusetts governor quipped: “We’re happy to pay for breakfast, but there is no free lunch.”
Gingrich showed up closer to 10:45, his scheduled time. His campaign had said it had booked Tommy’s first and even contacted the owner late Friday -- waking him up -- to confirm it.
“Callista and I are thrilled to be here, but I have a question - where's Mitt?” Gingrich joked upon arrival. “I thought he was going to stay and maybe we'd have a little debate here this morning. So I'm kind of confused.”
Noticing a few Romney stragglers still holding campaign signs, he added: “We're glad that you have the right in this country to express yourself and we hope in the very near future you'll see the light and pick up a Gingrich sign and join us.”