(BOSTON) — Forget the indirect attacks and distant exchanges between the Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich campaigns through the media. The Romney campaign pledged this week to run a “a full racketing operation,” right in Gingrich territory.
A source close to the campaign told ABC News there will be a Romney surrogate at every public Gingrich event in Florida standing by to rebut Gingrich’s speeches to the media.
“The campaign is entering a phase now where we are defining the terms of the Florida race,” a Romney staffer said.
The staffer said it wasn’t a sign of fear on the Romney campaign’s side.
However, the campaign didn’t feel the need to trail Gingrich when he was 4th in Iowa.
The campaign decided Sunday night to send a staff member to Florida full=time, specifically to handle the Romney surrogate group set to trail Gingrich.
Romney’s regional press secretary, Amanda Henneberg, was on hand at two Gingrich campaign stops Wednesday to offer Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., who spoke to several members of the press about what he thought were Gingrich’s inconsistencies in his speeches.
At the first event Thursday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, was on hand along with Romney staffer Dave Kochel. At the second event, Mack and his wife Mary Bono Back joined the group.
“Remember, it was Newt Gingrich who said he was going to follow Obama everywhere he went,” Chaffetz said.
Thursday, an angrier and more passionate Gingrich responded to the unwanted guests infiltrating his campaign stops.
“If Romney wants to personally come to one of my events, I’d be delighted for Romney to personally come to one of my events,” Gingrich said. “If you notice, he does all of his work — everything which is negative, he does by hiring people. He’s used the idea of hiring people, almost as much as he’s used to the idea of firing people.”
Gingrich said he would not be sending any surrogates to the Romney events because “he doesn’t say anything worth rebutting.”
“I mean, we would send somebody if we thought it was a useful exercise,” Gingrich said. “But, you know, this guy has no — He can’t talk about his record as governor. He can’t talk about all the various things he’s done to hurt Floridians by foreclosing on their homes. He can’t talk about his organization which is made up of Washington insiders and Washington lobbyists and Washington apparatchiks. So what would we rebut?”
Several reports surfaced Wednesday that Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond confronted the group of Romney supporters.
Chaffetz told ABC News that Hammond confronted him in a heated exchange at the first event Thursday and told him not to be at the event. Chaffetz told Hammond he got the idea from Gingrich. According to Chaffetz, Hammond said the following was only for the general election. Chaffetz told Hammond he would see him at the next event.
“The campaign is rattled. They don’t like being challenged on the facts and it shows,” Kochel said.
Hammond told ABC News he plans to confront all Romney surrogates at their events because he says the elected officials campaigning for Romney deserve to be questioned on why they support a candidate who owns stock in a company responsible for taking homes away from Floridians.
A Romney staffer told ABC News that Idaho Gov. Butch Otter might also join the group of surrogates on the Gingrich campaign trail. Romney surrogate talking points will be Gingrich’s involvement with Freddie Mac, what it was like to work for Gingrich in Congress, his involvement as a Washington insider and dispelling what the Romney campaign believes to be untruths by Gingrich.
“With what he’s out there saying and doing right now, we’ve got to stay on top of him pretty close ’cause otherwise he’ll get away with telling people Romney is anti-immigrant. So that’s why we’re going to stick close here and not let him make those charges,” the Romney staffer said.
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