Romney to visit in advance of Md. primary

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will swing through Maryland on Wednesday in advance of the April 3 primary, the first indication that a state often overlooked in presidential contests could play a more significant role this year.

Romney will attend a private lunch at the U.S. Naval Academy with midshipmen and U.S. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican. He will attend a town hall in Arbutus at 4 p.m. and will then head to a rally in Frederick that is planned for 6 p.m. GOP sources said the Arbutus and Frederick event will be open to the public. Details are still being firmed, sources said.

The protracted primary this year has put in play states like Maryland that have had little voice in presidential races in the past. Maryland's primary will take place on the same day as Wisconsin, which is likely to receive more attention.

Maryland will offer up to 37 delegates to a candidate heading into the GOP convention in Tampa. Twenty four of those delegates are awarded by congressional district, 10 will be allocated to whoever wins the popular vote and three are filled by party officials in the state. 

Romney's visit comes a day after the primary in Illinois.

Romney is running against former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and TexasRep. Ron Paul. It's not yet clear whether Santorum, who appears to have the momentum in the race if not the delegate count, will pass through the state. Santorum does not have a full slate of delegates at his disposal. 

Romney put a Maryland operation in place early, securing endorsements from more than two dozen state lawmakers, party officials and longtime GOP operatives, including former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Maryland donors have contributed more to Romney's campaign -- $975,432 -- than any other GOP candidate. 

Updated 12:19 p.m. Monday: Several GOP sources say the Romney event in Annapolis had been considered at one point but ultimately never came together. There will also now not be a rally in Frederick.           

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