Tampa, Fla.—The tension between Newt Gingrich's campaign and the traveling press corps has increased significantly in the last 48 hours. Whether this is a results of Gingrich's turbulence in the polls here is unclear but there is an increased level of stress emanating from his campaign staff. Gingrich's press secretary, R.C. Hammond, briefly held court with a restless media gaggle before telling everybody he was not hosting an availability himself and ordering all non-local press to go back behind the current to the main rally area. Here's a portion of that exchange:
This dust up stemed from a miscommunication between his campaign and the press. Gingrich's campaign said that they had to cut back on interactions with the press because they were running late. They were not particularly clear about this at their event in Tampa. Today's confrontation adds to Gingrich's press woes from yesterday when his campaign tossed the traveling press from his plane and disinvited them from their flight to Nevada. It is standard practice to accomodate the traveling press on campaign swings like this. Chris Moody was on the Gingrich charter when all of this went down:
Then, the campaign dropped a bomb: No reporters would be allowed to fly with Gingrich on his campaign swing on Monday, when his schedule calls for more than 1,000 miles of travel, complete with campaign stops from the panhandle near the Alabama border to Miami. Without a plane, it would be virtually impossible to cover Gingrich on the day before voting begins in the primary that political observers think will make or break his campaign.
Also, the press was no longer invited to fly with Gingrich to the next contest in Nevada, which will hold its Republican caucuses on Feb. 4.
Reporters who covered the former House speaker's campaigns in South Carolina and Iowa say Gingrich was very accessible during those contests. I found this to be the case in New Hampshire as well. The last two days have brought a substantial change in the way the campaign is dealing with the press.
Gingrich's speech at a rally here today was similar to his previous campaign events. He brought up eliminating White House Czars, promised to end President Obama's "war on religion", and attacked George Soros.
At one point he addressed a frequent punching bag for conservative activists, the author of Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky. "I'm a Reagan conservative, Obama is a Saul Alinsky radical," he said.
Near the end of his speech he brought up a Pam Geller favorite in the looming specter of Sharia Law being accepted in American courts.
"I am unalterably opposed to the use of Sharia in an American court," he said, eliciting one of the larger cheers of the afternoon.
"I am comfortable with legal immigrants of every background, including Islam, who want to come to America. I have no confusion in my mind about our background, our laws, our civilization. If they wish to join us, that's fine. We are not going to accept Sharia, " he said.
I tried to talk to Gingrich while he was shaking hands and talking to voters after his event. When he came down the line I talked to him about his unique lapel, the Federal Reserve holding rates at the current level indefinitely, as Gingrich's recent kind words Ron Paul. Gingrich did not respond:
Gingrich also declined to elaborate on his sharia law comments.
At his "crossing the finish line rally" in Orlando Gingrich avoided interacting with the press again, shaking hands and leaving quickly after the event finished.
Gingrich is slated to attend a series of campaign events in the Orlando area tomorrow before attending an election night party at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. Mitt Romney is holding court in Tampa at the Tampa Convention Center.