From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
COLUMBIA, SC -- Romney had to cancel two events in South Carolina due to weather, but he switched it up with a press conference in the Staples here that ended in a tiff with a reporter from the AP.
After Romney said in answer to another reporter's question, "I don't have lobbyists running my campaign. I don't have lobbyists that are tied to my..." he was cut off by AP reporter Glen Johnson, who challenged him with: "That's not true, governor. That is not true. Ron Kaufman is a lobbyist."
Kaufman is a senior strategist with the campaign who often travels with the governor and provides counsel before debates and other major events; in fact, Kaufman traveled with the motorcade in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses and was also in Michigan for the primary. He has been involved in Republican politics for decades and is now a lobbyist with the firm, Dutko Worldwide.
Romney went on, "Did you hear what I said? Did you hear what I said, Glen? I said I don't have lobbyists running my campaign, and he's not running my campaign." Johnson then shot back, "He's a senior adviser."
Romney charged on with: "He's an adviser. And the person who runs my campaign is Beth Myers, and I have a whole staff of deputy campaign managers," prompting Johnson to ask if Myers traveled on the plane with him, and he said she had.
It's also worth noting that Barbara Comstock, another senior adviser, is a Washington lobbyist.
The back-and-forth continued, causing spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom to end the avail after about 14 minutes. Although that is slightly longer than the campaign generally gives, they had scheduled 30 minutes for the session after canceling two events in the state due to severe weather before departing for Nevada. And after setting low expectations for how he will finish in the Palmetto State in the next day or two, reporters wanted to ask Romney about his effort here. When Fehrnstrom abruptly ended the press availability in the midst of the tiff with Johnson, several reporters piped up with lines like, "We've got to talk about South Carolina."
Romney had begun by announcing that he will unveil his short-term economic stimulus package in the next day or two, prompting several early questions about the economy. And when Fehrnstrom started guiding Romney away from the mic, the candidate approached Johnson to discuss the lobbyist matter further. Johnson challenged him on it more, and Romney, who was visibly irritated by the event, said: "Let's you and I talk." Fehrnstrom pulled Romney away from the discussion and essentially urged Johnson to knock it off as Romney started taking pictures with a few of the supporters gathered there, who applauded for Romney as the scramble ended.
About an hour later after boarding the plane for Nevada, Romney walked into the press section, approached Johnson smiling and said, "A little later, come on up."