The deadly shooting spree in Colorado consumed the presidential campaign Friday, sidetracking a bitter political contest with a tragedy that at least temporarily brought the candidates together in common purpose. "There are going to be other days for politics," a somber President Barack Obama said.
The president and Republican challenger Mitt Romney rushed not only to respond to the killings, but to distance themselves from a campaign that has become increasingly petty and bitter. Obama limited his campaign appearance in Fort Myers to remarks of less than eight minutes, devoted exclusively to the tragedy.
"It reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family," he said. He paused at one point to ask for a moment of prayer that lasted 20 seconds. A baby could be heard crying during it.
Obama canceled a second appearance scheduled near Orlando, Fla., and was returning to Washington. Romney, too, was to address the matter at a previously scheduled campaign event in New Hampshire. He canceled some media interviews. Both candidates moved to pull ads against each other airing in Colorado.
Obama was notified at dawn at his hotel near West Palm Beach, Fla., by his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan. The White House said there was no apparent connection to terrorism.
"Our time here is limited, and it is precious," Obama told supporters in Fort Myers. "What matters at the end of the day is not the small things. It's not the trivial things which consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it's how we choose to treat one another, and how we love one another. It's what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose."
Romney, in a written statement, said: "We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief. We expect that the person responsible for this terrible crime will be quickly brought to justice."