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Romney responds to Huckabee

From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
INDEPENDENCE, IA -- After initially refusing to respond to Huckabee's attack ad bait-and-switch, Romney made the following statement outside Bill's Pizza here this afternoon:

"You know in reaction to the press conference Gov. Huckabee had today, I think that I'd note that I'm running a serious campaign, that there are serious issues that face the country at this time. I want to bring change to Washington -- that's what my campaign is about. The press conference which Gov. Huckabee had today, I think, is confusing to the people of Iowa. On the one hand, he wants to run a positive campaign; and on the other hand, he shows a negative campaign ad and hopes that people promote it and provide it to the public through the earned media. And I think that's a very confusing and puzzling message. With that, who wants a slice of pizza?"

Following the news that Huckabee showed an attack ad on Romney to reporters this afternoon but changed his mind on airing it in Iowa, Romney's spokesman said to inquiring reporters that the governor would not make a statement on it, that he had already given his avail for the day.

Pressed again at a stop in Manchester along his bus tour route, spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom explained that it didn't necessarily make sense for Romney to respond to Huckabee's swift shift in tactics.

But a spate of reporters traveling with Romney stormed out of the event to greet Romney after the event at the doors of the Mitt Mobile before he departed for the next stop to demand a response. "I do all the responses that Eric let's me organize," Romney said. "So if you talk to Eric, I'll be happy to chat."

Meanwhile, the national press staff had been busily shooting out e-mails panning Huckabee for his "bizarre" moment and "meltdown."

But back on the press bus, the Iowa press secretary announced that the governor was to make unscheduled stop in Independence. According to Tim Albrecht, there had been a stop planned there, but it was pulled two days before in order to free up time. There was some buzz that not all of the supporters who were going to go got word of the cancellation, and so the campaign decided to forge ahead with the stop to make sure that no one who still showed up would be disappointed.

The governor made a quick run through the restaurant and picked up a few pizzas as the press bus pulled up for the "photo op." But as some were exiting, one reporter shouted back to others at the back of the bus to bring cameras because "he's going to make a statement about Huckabee."

After he made his statement, which was less than a minute long, a man who billed himself as a former member of the Arkansas legislature and a Republican started shouting questions about abortion to Romney as he climbed back aboard the Mitt Mobile. After he shut the door, a couple of the Romney campaign staffers offered the man some pizza -- which he refused.