The Republican presidential front-runner was due to deliver a stump speech at a pancake breakfast in Milwaukee. His staff ushered him into a ballroom and asked him to wait backstage behind a black curtain. An aide then approached him and warned him that turnout was low but that he would have to get the speech done as best as possible. The aide said: “It’s (the crowd) really small. But it will be okay.”
The Washington Post
reports Rep. Paul Ryan then went out to introduce Romney whom he called the "next president of the United States." Romney walked out from behind the curtains with Senator Ronald H. Johnson (R-Wis.) when the intro music began.
The ballroom was completely empty! And it was supposed to be his first campaign stop in Wisconsin ahead of Tuesday's primary.
Romney, recounting his shock, said: “It’s completely empty! There’s nobody there. I thought, ‘Oh, boy, this is gonna look really bad on the evening news, let me tell you.’”
But both Ryan and Johnson were part of the plan hatched on Saturday night. They set up an event hall identical to the real one. The applause Romney heard as he walked out from behind the black curtains was a soundtrack from the speakers.
While Romney stood in disbelief, gaping at the sight of the empty room with visions of the next day's news headlines flashing through his mind, his staff shouted "April Fools!" and then led him to the real ballroom, where he addressed several hundred supporters.
reports Romney told the crowd at the event in Wauwatosa, Wis.: "This is a morning I'm not going to forget anytime soon. You know, it's April Fools' Day, I forgot. They turned me into the April Fool this morning." He said: "My staff says to me, it's small, there's a small, we didn't get much turnout this morning, it's really small but it'll be okay, it'll be okay. And so the two of us go out there and it's completely empty. There is nobody there, it's like, oh this is going to look really bad on the evening news."
Romney continued: “So not only did they do that, but they caught it on camera. You guys — this is known as ‘forgive but remember,’ I’ll tell ya. We’re gonna remember this.”
The video (see video above
) shows Romney's alarm as he walked into the empty hall. He can be heard saying when he realized it was joke: "Oh jeez, you guys are bad."
reports Romney is a notorious prankster himself. The Washington Post
reports he once dressed up as a police officer, put a flashing red light on the roof of his car and chased after two friends while they were on a double date.
reports that Romney later gave the prank high ratings but said he prefers playing the jokes: "I think they’re much funnier when I do them on other people than when they do them on me. But this was very good. Very very good, this was classic."