Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is hoping that firing up his own fans will nullify rival Newt Gingrich’s advantage at Thursday night’s debate.
At a campaign event in Jacksonville, Florida, Romney joked that supporters without tickets should “just storm in” to the debate at the University of Florida to cheer him on.
“If y’all can get there, we’d love to see you there cheering,” the candidate said.
Several members of the audience replied that they didn’t have tickets.
“No tickets, huh?” Romney shrugged. “Just storm in.”
Earlier this week, Gingrich warned that he might not participate in future debates if moderators didn’t allow his fans to cheer.
NBC News had asked the audience at Monday night’s debate in Florida to hold their applause until the commercial breaks — and Gingrich was perceived to have done significantly worse than in previous debates.
“We’re going to serve notice on future debates. We’re just not going to allow that to happen,” he said. “That’s wrong. The media doesn’t control free speech. People ought to be allowed to applaud if they want to.”
The good news for the former House Speaker is that CNN will allow audience participation Thursday night.
“As we have done in the past, CNN will ask the audience to be respectful of the candidates,” the network said in a statement. “We have always said if audience reaction such as shouting or booing interferes with the debate or with the candidates’ answers, we will ask the audience to refrain.”
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Jan. 26, 2012.