JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — One of Mitt Romney’s spokesmen, in Ohio to attend Vice President’s Joe Biden’s speech today in nearby Youngstown, Ohio, got some unexpected one-on-one time with the veep tonight when he was seated next to him at dinner, where he apparently proceeded to drill him on his position on coal production.
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams told ABC News that he went to find a restaurant in Steubenville, Ohio, after the Biden event and came across Maples Spaghetti House. He and his dinner partner, Romney’s Ohio State Director Chris Maloney, walked into the restaurant, where they got swept by Secret Service, which Williams said tipped him off to Biden’s impending arrival.
Williams said he was seated at the “first available table” in the dining room when, moments later, Biden came down and sat at the table right next to him. Williams promptly tweeted a photo.
After a brief photo op with the traveling press, Williams said a staffer leaned over to Biden and whispered something, prompting the vice president to summon the Romney spokesman over to his table.
“Oh, there’s Ryan,” Williams recalled Biden saying. “He pointed me out and called me over, and we exchanged pleasantries.”
According to Williams, while there was no mention of Romney, Biden did ask if he’d like to join his table so he’d have a better chance of eavesdropping.
Williams said he asked the vice president why he was in coal country, challenging him on his support of the coal industry. According to Williams, Biden refused to answer when he asked the vice president why he believes coal is more dangerous than terrorism.
“He disagreed with that and didn’t want to answer my questions,” said Williams, who added that Biden was “very cordial” and “seems like a nice man.”
After the exchange, Williams said he returned to his table and Biden was relocated to another area of the dining room.
Amy Dudley, Biden’s press secretary, also tweeted a photo of the run-in with the message, “So nice of @RyanGOP to join us for dinner at Naples Spaghetti House in Steubenville http://pic.twitter.com/6UxchYIX.”
Ben LaBolt, a press secretary for the Obama reelection campaign, seemed less amused in his tweet, writing to Williams, “Staffer apparently doesn’t believe the press is capable of asking questions, shouts his own at the candidate. #classy.”
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who was dining with Biden, told the Columbus Dispatch that Biden didn’t seem put off by Williams’ questions.
“The vice president did not seem to be the least bothered by it,” Strickland told the paper.”I wasn’t bothered by it, I didn’t perceive it being out of line in any way or inappropriate in any way. I think politics can be fun and enjoyable. They can be a little spicy at times.”