Mitt Romney supporters showed up in droves this morning for the Republican presidential nominee's campaign stop at the Pensacola Bay Center.
Throngs of excited fans began forming at the crack of dawn. Hours before the event began, the line stretched in a winding trail for nearly a mile from the entrance of the Pensacola Bay Center.
"The president doesn't have a plan," Romney said early in his speech, which began shortly after noon. "He's out of ideas. He's out of excuses."
And this November, Romney said to the roar of the crowd, the president will be out of office.
Enthusiasm was palpable throughout the morning, as devoted supporters poured into Downtown Pensacola and waited for hours with people from across Northwest Florida and those who came in from nearby states to see Romney.
Even after the event began at 11:15 a.m. with Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward's introduction and continued with speeches by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and others, crowds still crept toward the entrance with folks hoping to get in. Shortly after Romney took the stage at noon, the entrances were closed and hundreds of fans were turned away disappointed.
The line didn't phase Robert and Allison Orr, of Auburn, Ala., who arrived hours early only to find the line already stretched a quarter of a mile or more at that point.
"We're going to get in line. This is worth waiting for," Allison said, determination clear in her voice. "If this is what I can do to save this country ... I will go a quarter of a mile."
As people and security began to wonder how likely it would be that the crowd could get through security in time, news of a second line into the building -- at the Ninth Avenue entrance -- began trickling through the line and had people scrambling to get there before that line backed up, too. Chase and Alcaniz streets were closed when crowds overflowed them.
Hugging themselves against the chill, the Soule family of Pensacola hiked from the Gulf Power building on Bayfront. Father Greg Soule said they didn't expect the massive crowd, but didn't mind waiting for Romney.
"It's cold and it's windy, and we hope to get in in time to see him," mother Kristin said.
The Soules' twin daughters, 11-year-old Kaylee and Carolyn, were very excited. Kaylee said they can't wait to tell their friends about attending the event..
"This is a historic event, especially if he wins," Carolyn said.
More than 10,000 ticket-holders filled the Bay Center, until recently known as the Civic Center. Organizers gave away more than capacity knowing some people pick up free tickets and then don’t go.
Some people said they regretted not coming earlier, while others brought books or talked to their loved ones.
"We're avidly pro-life," said Sarah Bedia, who came to the event from Mobile, Ala., with her husband, Jorge. "That is the number one issue for us."
Tim Engelskirchen, 52, of Charlotte, N.C., sold pins to those walking into the parking lot. Engelskirchen is traveling to Republican events, selling pins for $5, or 5 for $20.
"The crowds he has been getting, especially in Florida, have been tremendous," Engelskirchen said.
Engelskirchen was one of several vendors wandering around the nearly mile-long line. Their memorabilia catchphrases touched on core values: "Mitt happens. Vote Republican." "Gun owners for Romney/Ryan." "Classy women vote Mitt."
Romney previously visited Pensacola in January, stopping by The Fish House to campaign during the Republican primary. He was accompanied on the Bay Center stage by U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Other Republican candidates and office holders, including Senate hopeful Connie Mack, also joined Romney on the stage