If Mitt Romney maintains his widening lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, his name would likely appear in Maryland in November alongside ballot questions to legalize gay marriage and give college tuition breaks to illegal immigrants – two issues he has opposed with increasing intensity to help maintain his edge in the GOP contest.
Coming off a big win Tuesday in Illinois, Romney may have little incentive to say more about the two hot-button issues any time soon, but they could be front and center Wednesday afternoon when he hosts his first town hall meeting in the state in advance of Maryland’s April 3 primary.
Early voting begins Saturday, and 37 delegates are up for grabs in the Free State.
In advance of Romney’s only scheduled campaign stop in the state, even Democratic leaders acknowledged Maryland’s many moderate Republicans would likely help Romney pad his growing, 300-plus delegate advantage.
In a conference call Wednesday morning with reporters, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Maryland) responded to a question about Romney’s prospects in the state, saying he thought Republicans in the suburban areas around Baltimore and Washington would help him win. Hoyer said that even as he blasted Romney as an increasingly extreme candidate who caters to opinions espoused by the state’s Tea Party.
Hoyer also stressed Romney’s support for the 2013 budget released Tuesday by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
That budget aims to lower the top tax rate paid by the wealthy while at the same time seeking to wipe out U.S. deficits by 2040. That would be done, in part, by reducing spending on federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
“The Ryan-Romney budget, or Romney-Ryan budget,” Hoyer said “would be devastating for Marylanders.”
Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis added: “If you are a woman, student, senior or middle class, it is definitely not for you.”
Of Maryland’s 37 delegates, 24 will be awarded based on the winners of each of the state’s eight congressional districts, 10 will go to the statewide winner and the last three are controlled by state party leaders.
Romney’s Maryland team, led by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said it is confident that he can win most or all of those delegates.
The town hall is scheduled for 4 p.m. in Arbutus, Ehrlich’s boyhood home town outside of Baltimore. It was the site of a similar event four years ago hosted by Sen. John McCain during his run for the presidency.