The evening was cold and rainy and the local high school football team was playing its neighboring rival. But the Republican presidential ticket of Romney and Ryan drew a huge crowd to Hoover High School Friday night.
Gov. Mitt Romney campaigned in Iowa and Ohio Friday as national polls showed a tightening presidential race. A CNN poll on Friday showed Obama leading by 4 percentage points in Ohio.
With the race seeming to be narrowing here, rally-goers at Hoover High School said on Friday that this presidential contest was getting exciting and very watchable.
"I think this is the most excited I've seen people ever," said Lauren Zink of Jackson Township. "It's good. I think it should continue like this. I think this is probably the biggest election we've had since ... I've been voting."
Megan Murphy of Canton said with the race so close, the election takes on even more significance. She was glad to attend Friday's rally -- even if the weather was miserable.
"It's so close and so historic," Murphy said. "I don't think it's smart to miss anything like this."
Romney came onstage at about 8:15 p.m. and started off by attacking Obama's health care reform plan.
Romney told the crowd that the president has chosen to make election about Sesame Street characters and word games.
"The Obama campaign is out of ideas and out of excuses," Romney said. "That's why, come November, you're going to make sure he's out of office."
Romney said that while he has no plans to cut the military, Obama will.
Romney also said he will "get economy going" by taking advantage of energy resources and opening new trade with other nations.
"I'll lower tax rates on small businesses," Romney said. "Unlike the current administration, I like business because I like the jobs that business creates."
His running mate, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, came on stage with his wife and children.
"We need leadership. We need a leader to run at these problems and fix these problems in Washington," Ryan said. "And that is Mitt Romney."
Ryan said the presdient is "dividing, trying to win an election by default."
"Think about how we would feel if Obama were elected," Ryan said. "We would have another four years like the last four years."
Several speakers took the stage to whip up the crowd before the GOP main event.
Patricia Heaton, Cleveland-area native and star of the television show "Everybody Loves Raymond" introduced Romney and Ryan.
"You know what Cleveland's motto is? At least we're not Akron," Heaton told the crowd. "But after driving through your beautiful city it should be 'We wish we were Canton.'
"We have the opportunity to vote for someone who, as governor, brought both parties together and turned a deficit into a surplus," Heaton said of Romney before introducing Ryan.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Sherrod Brown, said, "The only way we're going to change Washington is by changing the people we send there."
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, also up for elections in District 16, gots boos while talking about Brown and cheers when mentioning Mandel. U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, who is seeking election to District 18, predicted that the president will get the pink slip in 11 days.
Friday's rally, which was attended by thousands, was the second or third GOP political appearance that Bruce Hein and his wife have attended in recent weeks.
The Canton couple said they both planned to vote for the Romney ticket.
Marge Hein said the country needs a president with good business sense. "Obama's not doing anything," she said.
Economy policy and the federal budget also was influencing Zink's vote. "We cannot be in debt by trillions of dollars," she said. "A new direction is what we need."
Rally-goers began to fill the high school baseball field around 5 p.m. as dusk fell on the chilly, rainy day. The line to enter the event wrapped around the entire baseball field and down an adjoining side street.
A stage was set up in the middle of the Hoover High School baseball field, faced by the stadium seats. The Oak Ridge Boys performed before the speakers got under way.
The event came on an evening with another must-watch contest that captured the attention of North Canton residents. But this battle played out on a football field: the Hoover High Vikings were set to play their neighboring rivals, the Jackson Polar Bears.
North Canton Patch heard from a number of readers about the dilemma of two big events on the same night.