JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—For days, Mitt Romney supporters have been crashing Newt Gingrich's campaign events around Florida to chat up reporters and irritate the former House Speaker's campaign aides. So it wasn't entirely surprising to see a prominent supporter of Gingrich lurking around a Romney rally here this morning.
Rick Tyler, a longtime Gingrich adviser who is now a senior strategist for Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC that has spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Romney, was lingering around the press riser Monday, long before the candidate arrived.
When Romney showed up at the rally—a few minutes late—Tyler began furiously typing into his iPhone, live-tweeting commentary on the former Massachusetts governor's remarks.
"Mitts opens predictably—with an untruth," Tyler tweeted, as Romney told the crowd that Gingrich "hasn't done so well connecting" with Floridians because of his ethical baggage and his ties to Freddie Mac.
Afterward, while the former Massachusetts governor shook hands along the rope line, the Romney press corps surrounded Tyler as he gave an impromptu gaggle.
Romney surrogates have disrupted recent Gingrich events, including one incident where Jason Chaffetz, a Republican representative from Utah, got into a tiff with Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond.
Romney aides seemed amused by Tyler's presence and did nothing to stop him from chatting up reporters.
Tyler proclaimed that he was "having a great time" at Romney's event—though he noted that there had been no free coffee and that it was "cold" inside the venue, a construction equipment warehouse.
"I couldn't keep up with his lies," Tyler said of Romney, suggesting the ex-governor may have a "congenital defect" that causes him to tell mistruths. He insisted Romney had lied about many issues, from his ties to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to his record on abortion.
"He's a disgraceful and despicable candidate," Tyler declared.
While Tyler hasn't formally worked for Gingrich since he was among the staffers to exit the former speaker's campaign in a shake-up last June, the Republican strategist's talking points didn't sound any different Monday than they did when he was on Gingrich's payroll.
When a Politico reporter mentioned that he had spotted Tyler at the Hyatt in downtown Jacksonville—the same hotel where both Gingrich and the Romney press corps bunked last night—Tyler produced a Priceline.com receipt and insisted it was just a coincidence.
Still, he frequently used the words "us" and "we" and "our" when talking to reporters about Gingrich's campaign. Admitting that Romney's millions in TV ad spending in Florida have had a negative effect on Gingrich's candidacy, Tyler said, "We have to raise money to counter it."
Asked if he was speaking of "Winning Our Future" or Gingrich, Tyler said he was speaking of the entire Gingrich effort.
Echoing his former boss's insistence that he's in the race for the long haul, Tyler raised his right hand as if taking an oath. "He's going to go on; I guarantee it," Tyler insisted dramatically. "I raise you my right hand."
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