ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s Republican presidential primary this year is drawing more interest than usual in a state where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 2-1 and the nominee is usually decided by the time the state’s GOP voters have their say.
This year, the candidates are paying more personal attention to Maryland.
Fresh off a big win against Rick Santorum in the Illinois primary on Tuesday, frontrunner Mitt Romney campaigned at a town hall the next day at an American Legion in Arbutus. Newt Gingrich is planning a visit on Tuesday, a co-chair of his Maryland campaign said. Santorum is planning a stop in Maryland on the same day as Gingrich, his national press secretary wrote in an email. Texas Rep. Ron Paul has scheduled a town hall at the University of Maryland, College Park, on Wednesday night.
Maryland has 37 delegates at stake in the April 3 primary. There are 24 that will be decided on primary results in each of the state’s eight congressional districts. Another 10 will go to the candidate receiving the most votes statewide. The other three delegates are state party leaders and are committed to the winner of the statewide vote.
Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who is chairing Romney’s campaign in Maryland, said Romney has been a frequent visitor at fundraisers in Maryland over the years. He believes Romney’s Maryland campaign has been more organized.
“We’re in the business right now of piling up delegates,” Ehrlich said in an interview the night before Romney’s visit. “Maryland obviously has a bunch in play. Clearly, he will do well here. He has been here many, many times over the years. He is well-known here, and we have an expectation that he’ll win.”
But if so, by how much?
Ehrlich said it’s unclear how well Romney will do. Voter turnout in primaries is typically not high, and Maryland doesn’t have a large number of Republican voters. Ehrlich, who became Maryland’s first Republican governor in more than 30 years when he won in 2002, noted that he needed to appeal to independents and crossover voters throughout his political career in Maryland, not just the state’s conservative base.
“You’re talking about a relatively small group, and it’s a primary so the turnout is not large — hence, very difficult to
predict,” Ehrlich said.
In addition to his visit this week, Romney is spending money in Maryland. Restore Our Future, a super PAC that backs the former Massachusetts governor, launched a television ad campaign in Maryland at a cost of more than $450,000.
Warren Miller, a delegate in the Maryland House of Delegates who is co-chairing Gingrich’s Maryland campaign, said Gingrich is scheduled to visit Annapolis on Tuesday. He’s planning to visit local businesses in the morning and then visit the Maryland State House.
“I think the plan is he’ll pretty much be here all day,” Miller said.
Santorum, a former senator from neighboring Pennsylvania, is still working out the details of his planned visit, national press secretary Alice Stewart wrote in an email.
Edward King, Paul’s national youth director, noted the University of Maryland chapter is one of the strongest in the
“Supporters are working tirelessly to organize this upcoming event so Ron Paul can speak directly to students and Maryland voters about his `Plan to Restore America,’ and economic blueprint that includes cutting $1 trillion in his first year in office and balancing the budget within three years,” King said.
Romney leads the race for delegates with 563, including endorsements from Republican National Committee members who automatically attend the convention and can support any candidate they choose. Santorum has 263 delegates, Gingrich has 135 and Paul has 50. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the Republican nomination to take on President Barack Obama in the fall.
Donald Norris, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is giving the edge to Romney in Maryland’s primary.
“I think it’s going to go for Romney, because even the base in Maryland is not as conservative of a base as, say, the base in Virginia or some other states,” Norris said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)