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Newt Gingrich's Dash Across Florida Makes For Chaotic Events

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Here's a good description of the disorganization bordering on chaos that regularly surrounds Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign.

The former House speaker was scheduled to arrive at the Tampa Jet Center, next to Tampa International Airport, at 1 p.m. for a rally with Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate who endorsed Gingrich this week. But Gingrich's plane arrived around 2 p.m. Granted, he is hitting five cities on Monday, but this was only his third event of the day.

The event site, inside a hangar, was still being set up by advance staff around 1 p.m., as they hoisted blue curtains on steel frames to encircle the event.

And then as a number of local activists and supporters spoke to a lackluster crowd, Gingrich had not yet come inside. I walked up to the front of the crowd, next to the stage, to get the name of one of the speakers who had said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was "running on hate."

As I stood there, another journalist came through the blue curtain from the other side, and motioned that Gingrich was there. I started to go through the curtain, when a man in a brown suit placed his hands on me and held me back from walking through. I told him, motioning to the 50 or so reporters about 50 feet away who were standing around Gingrich, "Do you see all those reporters over there?"

The man grew frustrated. "I'm law enforcement. Do you want to go to jail?" he said, laying his hands on me again.

Another Gingrich staffer came up and said I had to walk to the back and go around the curtains. Slate's David Weigel, walking toward me from the other side of the curtain, took a picture of this.

I walked around and strolled up to the throng of other press to find Gingrich talking to CNN's Joe Johns in the midst of a gaggle of reporters that had not been announced by the Gingrich campaign and was not planned.

"How can a guy who's a great manager not file 23 foreign holdings last year when he filed?" I heard Gingrich say. "How can he have signed a document saying that he provided services for Bain as part of his income tax, when he kept telling everybody he didn't provide services?"

"There are a lot of pieces of Mitt Romney that don't hold up once you start looking at them honestly," he said.

Gingrich then went back to his plane, as more reporters, caught unaware by Gingrich's decision to hold an impromptu rap session that had already ended, sprinted past the curtain and toward the hangar door where Gingrich had just exited.

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond yelled at the reporters in front of him and all around him, saying that unless they were from local TV affiliates, they should go away. Most reporters just looked at Hammond.

The crowd in the hangar was listening to a procession of nameless speakers. At one point a speaker introduced Newt, and the crowd -- somewhat unenthusiastically -- began to chant, "Newt, Newt, Newt."

There was silence for several moments, and then a man came to the mic and said Gingrich was still conducting press interviews.

"We're going to give them a little bit of time to get their interviews completed," said Sam Rashid, a local supporter.

Finally, around 2:30 p.m., Michael Reagan, a son of the Gipper, came to the stage and began to speak.

"We all would love to have my father back," he said, "but if you wake up in the morning and yearn to be free ... and you want America to once again be the proudest nation in the world ... then guess what, you found Ronald Reagan. He's living in each and every one of you."

And he urged each person in the crowd of about 200 to go out and vote for Gingrich. He introduced Cain, who had not yet shown his face and did not appear on the stage. Instead, another local activist, this time a woman, came out and introduced Cain.

"Awwww shucky ducky," Cain shouted as he walked out. "My kind of crowd!"

Read more on Gingrich's 2012 campaign:

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