ABC News’ Emily Friedman and Elicia Dover report:
GREENVILLE, S.C. – It was the Ham House showdown that wasn’t.
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich didn’t cross paths this morning at Tommy’s Ham House in Greenville, despite both advising public schedules that suggested they’d be holding campaign events at the breakfast joint at 10:45 a.m. that had ignited a media frenzy, a crush of photographers waiting by the door of the diner to catch the possible run in between the fierce GOP rivals.
But Romney arrived nearly an hour earlier than his schedule had advised, going to the restaurant directly after his first event of the morning at his Greenville headquarters.
“We see Newt all the time,” one Romney campaign aide quipped.
The locations of the two events are just half a mile away, Romney aides said that the candidate went early to the restaurant because volunteers who couldn’t squeeze in to the first event had gone there to wait for him.
Despite the crush of media anxiously awaiting what had been dubbed the “Ham House Showdown” by many, Romney and Gingrich were never at the diner at the same time, taking turns speaking to the crowd packed inside, many of whom had their breakfasts ruined by reporters stepping over tables to gain access to the candidates.
Romney took a jab at Gingrich during his speech to the patrons, remarking “If we think we need a Washington insider to run Washington there are a lot of people to choose from, but I’m the only guy whose spent his life in the real world I’m going to fight to put America back to work.”
Climbing up on a chair to make his speech, Romney spoke without a microphone, telling the crowd that he couldn’t use the one set up in the restaurant — because it was Newt’s.
“You guys this is an exciting time for us an exciting time for the nation you know they have a microphone but I didn’t pay for it so all I can say is thank you look forward to seeing you on the trail let’s go get em’ guys,” said Romney, straining his voice to project.
Romney made his way around the restaurant – at one point climbing over a table to reach more voters waiting for autographs and photos – before leaving the restaurant.
Thirty minutes later, Gingrich arrived.
“Where’s Mitt?” Gingrich asked. “I thought he was gonna stay and maybe we’d have a little debate this morning. So I’m kind of confused.”
The room was peppered with Gingrich signs and lingering Romney signs from the governor’s visit just a half hour earlier.
“And let me say to our friends who are holding up Romney signs, we’re glad you’re a part of the American system, we’re glad you have the right in this to express yourself in this country, and we hope in the very near future, you’ll see the light and pick up a Gingrich sign,” Gingrich said to a cheering crowd.”
Gingrich said the food at Tommy’s was “good eatin’” and in an obvious jab at Romney said “I don’t think they serve clam chowder here.”
After recent polls showing Gingrich soaring ahead in S.C., the former Speaker of the House seemed to have a more confident tone concerning tonight’s election results than at the beginning of the week, changing the “if” we win to “when we win tonight.”