Pledging not to raise taxes on middle class Americans, presidential hopeful Gov. Mitt Romney is receiving a rock star welcome at a downtown rally tonight in St. Petersburg.
"I will not raise taxes on small business, and I will not raise taxes on middle income families," the GOP candidate told a crowd that shouted, "Romney! Romney!"
"I will champion small business," Romney proclaimed, as he started his campaign speech.
With Tampa Bay as a backdrop, Romney is rallying thousands of enthusiastic supporters at a presidential campaign stop in downtown St. Petersburg. Although the candidate was about 90 minutes late for the 5:45 p.m. rally, the enthusiastic crowd does not seem to notice.
Part of the delay may be that scores of people continued to pour into the downtown park until 6 p.m. Early estimates put the turnout at 5,000.
An all American-style event seems to be the theme of the Romney rally. Before the candidate took the stage, the campaign showed family movies on a giant screen, children sang the National Anthem and the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a prayer.
Margaret Good of St. Petersburg arrived three hours early to make sure she could find a good viewing spot to see the GOP presidential hopeful. Good said she is a Democrat who "switched" her vote for Romney. "He's going to get us back on our feet," said Good.
The pre-event speakers included Florida GOP leaders known to locals.
U.S. Rep. Bill Young lauded Romney's performance at Wednesday night's debate against President Barack Obama. "We heard the truth," Young declared to the appreciative crowd.
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said Romney "saved the Olympics. He knows what we need to do."
South Pasadena Mayor Kathleen Peters, who's running for a House seat in the Florida Legislature, urged supporters to "help us get Mitt Romney in the White House."
EJ Otero, who's running for Congress, compared Romney to President Ronald Reagan.
The former Massachusetts governor is visiting Florida, a key battleground state, after his strong performance Wednesday in the first of three televised debates against Obama.
Romney's campaign is working hard to maintain that energy and momentum. An article posted by Boston.com described Romney's performance as "aggressive, crisp and confident," reinvigorating a campaign that had appeared lagging.
Supporters seem to share in the renewed excitement. They are decked out in red, white and blue as well as Mitt Romney for President T-shirts and even costumes of Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam. Two small planes, with protest banners trailing, circle overhead. They just seem to add to the theatrical atmosphere and excitement.
Marshall Adams, who came out to the rally, was adamant in his support for the candidate. "Realistically, I don't believe this country will survive four more years under Obama."
Friday's event is being held at the picturesque Pier Park, 550 Second Ave. NE. Although the event is free attendees had to obtain tickets in advance.
Gates opened at 3:45 p.m. for the outdoor event, but people started arriving as early as 2, with some folks gathering at local outdoor restaurants.
Romney was just in Florida's Tampa Bay area two weeks ago, when he stopped in Sarasota for a rally that drew 4,000 people.
Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, spoke in St. Petersburg during the Republican National Convention. She cut the ribbon on a new therapeutic playground for disabled children getting therapy at All Children's Hospital.