ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Mitt Romney spoke to thousands of supporters at Asheville's civic center Thursday evening, just before his running mate was scheduled to debate Vice President Joe Biden.
Romney promised to provide tax relief for the middle class if he wins his bid for the White House, and slammed President Barack Obama's record on jobs, debt and the economy.
"If President Obama were able to get re-elected, why, he would raise taxes. He’s made it very clear," Romney said. "I’ll make this commitment: I will not raise taxes on small business or the middle class in America. We’re going to keep our taxes down."
The line outside the U.S. Cellular Center on Haywood Street in downtown Asheville stretched for at least six blocks before doors opened at 4 p.m. Some people said they waited two hours to get inside.
Romney noted the big turnout during his stump speech.
"Based on what I'm seeing here this evening, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that we're going to win North Carolina," he said.
Amy Bright said there's no question that Romney has her vote, and now she's trying to convince others.
"It's going to change our future if we don't get Obama out of there," she said. "Obama doesn't know what he's doing to reduce debt."
Kenneth Farmer said he was undecided until recently, but is now firmly backing Romney.
"I've always been hesitant about Republican policies after George Bush, because I felt like he wasn't a real Republican," Farmer said. "I feel like Mitt definitely is, and that's what restored my faith."
The Republican presidential nominee was joined by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Speaker of the House John Boehner and country singer Ronnie Milsap, who is a Graham County native, for the campaign rally.
In his remarks, Huckabee said Republican voter turnout is essential to a Romney win, and even suggested preventing Democratic voters from getting to the polls.
"If you've got friends and neighbors who tell you that they're going to vote for Obama, tell them the election has been postponed until December," he said. "Don't let these people out of their house that day. Let the air out of their tires if you have to."
North Carolina is one of handful of battleground states where both the campaigns of Romney and Obama are spending time and resources and lots of money on advertising. Obama narrowly won North Carolina's electoral votes four years ago.
National polling numbers released Thursday by Rasmussen suggest Romney has taken the lead in the presidential race, ahead of Obama 51 to 48 percent, following a strong performance in the first presidential debate last week.
In the latest WRAL News poll numbers released before that debate, Obama was leading Romney in North Carolina 49 to 47 percent.
Romney last visited North Carolina in August for a Charlotte fundraiser. Thursday marks his sixth campaign visit to the Tar Heel state.
GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Biden were scheduled to debate at 9 p.m. in Danville, Ky.