Mitt Romney plans to visit Frederick next week, one of three stops the Republican front-runner will make during a quick swing through Maryland, his campaign confirmed Friday.
The candidate's schedule has not been finalized, but there's a "95 percent chance" he will hold a rally at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Frederick Fairgrounds, in addition to stops that day in Annapolis and near Baltimore, said Louis Pope, chairman of Romney's Maryland campaign.
Local Republicans expect a crowd of 400 to 500, according to County Commissioner Paul Smith, and they are inviting Romney supporters from neighboring counties to join them in Frederick.
Pope said he hopes to see 1,000 supporters here.
"Who would have thought that Maryland would ever be a key state in a presidential campaign?" Smith wrote in an email Friday to delegates Kathy Afzali and Michael Hough. "But it is. ... I expect Romney to do (well) here -- but we should take nothing for granted."
Smith, Afzali and Hough have all endorsed the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney's swing through Maryland will begin with lunch at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis with midshipmen and Sen. John McCain, an academy graduate, Pope said. The candidate will then hold an afternoon rally in the Catonsville/Arbutus area outside Baltimore before heading west to Frederick.
Romney must leave for Nashville, Tenn., promptly at 8 p.m., Pope said.
Why a rally here?
"Frederick's pretty much the center of the universe for the state of Maryland," Pope said.
A tight 6th District congressional race and Frederick's easy accessibility factored into the decision, he said.
"We want to make an impact in a lot of ways."
Romney will return to Maryland the week before the state's April 3 primary, Pope said, and is likely to make appearances in Montgomery County and on the Eastern Shore.
No local polling has been done, but Pope thinks his candidate will do well here, he said.
"Maryland is a state that should go for Romney."