Maryland's primary is now just two weeks away (with early voting starting this Saturday) and — surprise — ballots cast here might even be relevant to the presidential selection process. On Wednesday, Mitt Romney is scheduled to be the first of the Republican candidates to traipse into the Old Line State to state his case for taking home 37 delegates in the winner-take-all event with appearances at theU.S. Naval Academy and in Arbutus and Frederick.
For a state dominated by Democrats, this is a rarity that GOP voters should savor. In years past, Maryland's primaries have either been lumped with too many bigger states (we were the Mr. Irrelevant of Super Tuesday), or held too late to make a difference. Competitive moments in GOP primaries of years past have been fleeting things.
But let's cut to the chase: If Maryland Republicans are going to matter in this thing, then they certainly deserve some pandering. Iowans get umpteen thousand chances to dine with the candidates. New Hampshire voters get their grip-and-grin opportunities, too. It's time Mr. Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul shamelessly sucked up to the residents of this state.
Hey, we're not expecting the kind of Farm Bill goodies or no-tax pledges that those crucial first few primary states get. Just some basic song and dance by the candidates to demonstrate that they know a thing or two about Maryland and its traditions. Like Mr. Romney professing his love for grits in the Deep South, Mr. Gingrich envisioning a moon colony for Space Coast Floridians or Mr. Santorum telling Puerto Ricans why they ought to learn English (well, maybe something a little more respectful than that).
Sorry, Mitt, but eating crabs would be way too easy, especially if it's a crab cake, which requires no effort on the part of the diner at all. Shucking your own oysters and eating them raw on the deck of a watermen's work boat, preferably in four-foot chop in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, now that would be a culinary accomplishment that would get Marylanders to sit up and take notice.
Still, we understand that the GOP candidates don't necessarily know much about Maryland — aside from its proximity to the much-reviled Washington — or how to act like they belong here. So we've put together the following modest recommendations on what to do if they really want those 37 delegates:
•If you're going to name-drop famous Maryland Republicans, past or present, don't use former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. You probably won't, but don't assume that Marylanders must love the ex-governor just because he came from around these parts. If the late Sen. Charles McC. Mathias is too liberal for your tastes, try Theodore R. McKeldin, Tom Clancy or Rogers C.B. Morton.
•If you can't say anything nice about the federal government workforce, maybe don't say anything at all. That's a big chunk of the electorate. Chances are fairly high there are even a few career GS-14s waiting to shake your hand while you're in town. And who knows? You may even discover they are not all overpaid, lazy incompetents.
•If you're really looking for a scapegoat, try mocking Delaware instead. You don't really need its residents' votes, and they charge way too much in tolls for that little bit of Interstate 95 running through their tiny little state.
•Feel like a little nosh? Here's the meal to cover the most real estate: Southern Maryland stuffed ham with Eastern Shore fried chicken, a cold glass of locally-brewed beer or Western Maryland apple cider topped off with a handful of Berger cookies. Eat that and you'll have this thing sewn up — and be a pound or two heavier.
•Hey, history buffs (and you know who you are, Mr. Speaker), bring the War of 1812 into the conversation. It would sure help with the tourist trade. Merely singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" isn't enough (unless you sing verses two, three or four with little-heard phrases like "Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.")
•Be aware of the dividing line between the D.C. and Baltimore suburbs. Never mention the Redskins north of Columbia. And if you must visit traffic-choked Montgomery County, do so between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. or you'll need a helicopter.