An over-capacity crowd of 600 or more jammed the in Arbutus to see GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney's only appearance in Maryland before the April 3 state primary.
"I'm very excited he would come to this part of the county and state, since we're usually overlooked," said Charles Michael Johnson of nearby Baltimore Highlands.
"This is very exciting for me," said Evan Richards of Lansdowne, a sophomore at Towson University who will be voting for the first time during the April 3 primary. "I've never been through a presidential campaign before."
With the GOP race still open in a hard-fought political cycle, Maryland offers candidates the chance to win 37 delegates. Romney hopes to avoid a brokered Republican national convention with former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-PA.
At the Arbutus forum, Romney was introduced by native Arbutian former Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
"What's the election about?" Ehrlich asked.
"Freedom," said a voice from the audience.
"Repealing Obamacare, right?" Ehrlich said.
Dressed in blue jeans and an open-collared shirt, Romney appeared at ease in front of the audience and stuck close to familiar points about the economy and his experience as a private-sector business executive.
"I'm not in this race as the next step in my political career," he said. "I don't have a political career. I've only been in government four years."
Romney told the crowd he intends to repeal "Obamacare" and eliminate regulation that he said is stifling the nation's economic growth.
"I see our president attacking economic freedom," Romney said. "He doesn't know what he's doing. He attacks ecomomic freedom by making it difficult for banks to stay in business and lend."
Romney said that the campaign trail has allowed him to meet families across the country.
"I become more encouraged and more optimistic as I meet everyday Americans," he said. "I get the chance to see people across the country that love America and are doing things that make their lives better. I am also however weighed down by some of the troubles folks are having."
Noting that the median income has dropped in the last decade, Romney said that "these are trying times in America."
"I look at what he’s (Obama's) done in his almost three and half years in his office and I just shake my head," he said. "Virtually everything he’s doing is making it harder in this economy for people to get back to work. I say that because I understand what it is that fuels this economy; it’s freedom, economic freedom."
Speaking about income inequality, Romney said, "The success of some does not make the rest of us poorer."
After speaking for several minutes, Romney answered several questions from the audience.
Bill Campbell asked Romney about financial institutions that were "too big to fail" and what he would do to prevent a repeat of the near-economic collapse of 2008.
Romney said that President George W. Bush and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson did the right thing by bailing out failing financial institutions. "People disagree with me, but I think they were right to do that," he said.
Romney also said that Obama does not deserve credit for preventing the recession from getting worse.
"I keep hearing the president say that he's responsible for keeping America from going into a Great Depression," he said. "No, no, no. That was President George W. Bush and Hank Paulson who stepped in and kept that from happening."
Patch editors, Marc Shapiro and Brian Hooks contributed to this report.