Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) met Maryland Republicans on Tuesday morning at a breakfast fundraiser in Baltimore.
Dozens laid out at least $2,500 to attend the meeting that marked the beginning of a fundraising swing through the D.C. region. Perry also drew some surprising endorsements and seemed able to split a Maryland state GOP that many expected would lean heavily toward a more moderate candidate, such as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
According to several in attendance at the closed-door fundraiser, a crowd of nearly 50 that included former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), several state lawmakers and a who's who of Maryland business leaders applauded most loudly when Perry promised to repeal "Obama Care."
In keeping with a measured tone he's struck in recent meetings with donors, Perry kept his attacks focused on Obama, and didn't lash out at fellow Republicans, at least not by name, said state GOP officials.
"He held his fire to Obama, states' rights and keeping the federal government out of your life," said Maryland Republican Party Chairman Alex Mooney, who said as chairman he is not endorsing a candidate but simply attending every candidate appearance in the state.
Several other party staffers, however, appeared with Perry after the breakfast for an endorsement ceremony, including Mooney's No. 2, vice-chair Diana Waterman, and state party executive director Justin Ready.
"I think he will have greater appeal," Waterman said. "Any Republican will be better in the White House, but my biggest concern for Romney is that they are going to hang Romney Care-Obama Care on him, and not let him get away from that.
"Obama Care is integral to the country's economic problems, and has many negative effects on the state — I just feel that's going to be a big deal," Waterman said.
Republican fundraiser Dick Hug announced the event raised $75,000, Mooney said. Hug was traveling after the breakfast on Tuesday and could not immediately be reached.
The Maryland Democratic Party, however, held a conference call to use Perry's appearance to draw attention to his record of spending cuts that teachers say could spell layoffs for many in Texas classrooms this year.
"The fact is that under Gov. Perry's leadership, Texas ties for the highest rate of minimum-wage jobs; dropping from 30th to 47th in median household income," said Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D). "He will lay off tens of thousands of teachers; and has borrowed at a faster rate than the federal government.
"Perry fails to impress and Romney isn't much better," Brown said.
Perry's appearance comes before a scheduled fundraiser for Romney in Bethesda on Thursday, several officials said. Romney has already announced state party endorsements and has a longstanding organization in Maryland.