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Gingrich, Romney heading for Ham House showdown

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- The folks at Tommy's Country Ham House in Greenville are expecting a record crowd Saturday morning, and the mob's not coming for the grits.

In a state famous for its bizarre brand of Republican politics, mere hours after polls open in South Carolina, the primary's two frontrunners are hosting dueling campaign events at the restaurant over breakfast. Same time. Same place.

Call it the Ham House Showdown.

Incredulous reporters first thought there was a mistake. Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney scheduled events at Tommy's Country Ham House in Greenville, S.C., at 10:45 a.m. ET Saturday. For Romney, the event will be his final public appearance before results are announced Saturday night.

Not quite a duel at high noon, but close.

The Gingrich campaign put their public schedule on their website roughly an hour before the Romney campaign emailed out theirs to reporters. Now, neither campaign is backing down.

"We have had this event on the books. Our schedule went out first. We are confirmed at our event," Gingrich campaign spokesman, Nathan Naidu, told reporters aboard the USS Yorktown following a Gingrich event. "We are more than happy if Gov. Romney would like to join us at our event and have some ham."

A Romney aide said: "It is pure coincidence the events were scheduled at the same time and we are not changing our schedule."

The Gingrich spokesman added, "We are more than happy to treat Gov. Romney to ham at our event."

Reporters were told that Caroline Vinvick, Gingrich's Greenville regional director, called and woke up the owner of the restaurant, Tommy Stevenson, Friday night. He said none of Romney's people has contacted him about an event. The Gingrich campaign is confirmed for 10:45 a.m. ET, Stevenson reassured Vinvick. Meanwhile, outside Romney's rally Friday night in Greenville, volunteers were overheard telling supporters to head to Tommy's Saturday morning to support Romney.

National media -- seizing on the opportunity for pithy, ham-related headlines and the potential for a political showdown that could rival any from the debate stage this season -- are preparing to flock to the restaurant Saturday morning.

Some may want to bring helmets to prepare for what could be a dangerously packed house. All will bring their appetites.