By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff
INDEPENDENCE, Iowa -- Mitt Romney stood outside his campaign Winnebago, parked outside a pizza shop, and accused rival Mike Huckabee of confusing voters with a press conference to show a negative ad that he decided not to run against Romney.
"On the one hand he wants to run a positive campaign, and on the other hand he shows a negative campaign ad and hopes that people promote it and provide it to the public through the earned media," Romney said this afternoon. "And I think that's a very confusing and puzzling message."
"With that, who wants a slice of pizza?" he asked, offering paper plates to reporters, but not offering to answer questions.
Jim Bob Duggar, a former Arkansas state legislator who is backing Huckabee, crashed the event, asking loudly: "I was just going to ask you about the $50 copay -- the $50 copay for abortions?"
Romney turned way from Duggar, told his traveling press secretary, Eric Fehrnstrom, to give the man an answer, and called out loudly, "Hey guys, who wants pizza? Everybody take a plate if you want pizza."
After Romney climbed back on to the Mitt Mobile, Duggar held court briefly for reporters.
"I just heard him speak about this healthcare program and he says he's pro-life, but he offers abortions for $50 in Massachusetts through his program.," Duggar said."I wonder if this is what he's going to do nationwide if he's president? It's not about the ad, it's about what he stands for."
Duggar's remarks were quickly cut short when Fehrnstrom offered him pizza and another Romney aide hurried reporters back on to their bus, yelling, "Let’s go!"
The $50 copay for abortion was also going to be in the Huckabee ad. Romney campaign called the charge "a blatant distortion," noting that the healthcare plan only followed a 1981 court decision that required abortion services to be offered.
"The charge Mike Huckabee makes is akin to saying President Bush, while being pro-life, is responsible for current laws related to abortion that were decided well before he became president," spokesman Kevin Madden said.