— It wasn't just the wind whipping up the crowd of about 200 outside Calvert County Republican headquarters Friday afternoon.
"In Maryland of all places, we know we can win because we have done it before," former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele told GOP supporters.
Now chairman of the Republican National Committee, Steele has spent the past six weeks on a 48-state "Fire Pelosi" tour, promoting Republican congressional candidates to turn out the Democratic House speaker. The odyssey arrives in Severna Park today for a rally with Andy Harris, the Republican state lawmaker attempting to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in the 1st Congressional District.
Earlier Friday, Steele met with Harris and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on the Eastern Shore. In Prince Frederick — represented by Democratic House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, who is expected to coast to re-election — he said the key to victory Tuesday would be voter turnout.
"We need you to go out there as you've never gone out there before," he told the party faithful. His call to defeat Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley drew rousing shouts of approval.
Sharing the limelight was Charles Lollar, Hoyer's Republican challenger. A group of children led a chant for Lollar — "Holler for Lollar, Don't let Steny steal your dollar" — that first elicited laughter, but adults quickly joined in.
"He made it a competitive race," said Audrey Scott, chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party. She pointed out that Scott Brown was considered a long shot in Massachusetts before he won the Senate seat that had long been held by the late Edward M. Kennedy.
After the crowd broke up, Steele said close races and surprise results — such as the Republican Senate primary win of tea party favorite Christine O'Donnell in Delaware — show that "there is an energy that is not getting captured out there by the best polls."
As national committee chairman, Steele said, he has been working to get the GOP out of its "comfort zone" and empower state party operations.
Frank McCabe, chairman of the Calvert County Republican Central Committee, said Steele, a former state party chairman, remains popular locally.