Newt Gingrich said his spokesman R.C. Hammond was joking when he told reporters that Mitt Romney needs to drop out for Gingrich to reach the Republican National Convention.

“R.C. was joking. Of course we can go to Tampa with Mitt in the race,” the candidate said.

“He said it multiple times,” Danny Yadron of the Wall Street Journal countered at the media avail.

“I know, but he was joking multiple times,” Gingrich responded. “Toby and I have both talked to him about this, and Toby has been trying to...Toby is his dog, for those of you don’t know.”

He looked at the reporters with an amused look on his face.

“Toby has been trying to explain to him sometimes the press doesn't pick up when he is speaking humorously,” Gingrich said.

The candidate has at times referred to his spokesman’s pet beagle to diffuse the tension of tough questions from reporters.

"We can go to Tampa,” he insisted. “Look, this could be like the NCAA Final Four with no elimination."

"You could have all four of us at Tampa. You could even have number five and number six if somebody gets excited and jumps in."