DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Tensions matched temperatures in South Florida Friday when a spokesman for Newt Gingrich cornered Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a campaign surrogate for Mitt Romney, at the back of a Gingrich event.
“I didn’t have to pay a fundraiser to come see you. It’s very exciting,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond sneered, after shouting at the Utah congressman from across a crowded room of Gingrich supporters.
It wasn’t Chaffetz's first Gingrich event this week, nor was it his first confrontation with Hammond. Romney aides and surrogates have been following Gingrich around Florida for days to help inform their own strategy in the state, which votes Tuesday.
Hammond has made it clear that he doesn’t want them around.
"So where are you going next?” Hammond taunted, as a pack of reporters rushed up to the two men, sticking cameras and recorders in their faces. “Do you have tomorrow’s schedule? Are you going to be on our charter [plane] to go up to Tampa? Do you have transportation taken care of? You know you have been a tremendous volunteer for our campaign. We can get you on a phone bank. Maybe do some calls? Call some friends?”
Chaffetz said he is not trying to be a distraction and called Hammond “immature.”
“I’m just here attending,” he said. “I’m being very respectful just hanging out in the back not trying to disrupt the event whatsoever.”
Hammond said Chaffetz and the Romney campaign are “running scared” and suggested that “the establishment” sent him to the Gingrich events.
“One thing is clear: The establishment sticks together,” Hammond said. “Have you got your charter membership yet?” he mocked.
Chaffetz said Hammond’s badgering is a sign of an unstable campaign.
He said Gingrich has “been unreliable and prone to become unhinged and you see that happen even in the way the campaign is running itself.”
“I can understand why they are a bit desperate,” Chaffetz added.
Ten minutes later, Gingrich stepped up to a podium to address a couple hundred voters who gathered to see him while Chaffetz listened in.