(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty…)
Ft. Myers, Fla. -- President Obama called for “prayer and reflection for the victims” of the Colorado shooting Friday, cutting short a campaign swing through Florida as he pledged federal support for state and local officials.
“There are going to be other days for politics,” Obama told a crowd of several hundred supporters on hand to see him at the Harborside Event Center here.
Obama said he had spoken earlier in the morning with the mayor of Aurora, Colo., the Denver suburb in which the shooting took place and with the state’s governor, John Hickenlooper, and that the federal government would assist local law enforcement in any way possible.
“We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all our people,” Obama said.
The shooting is a “reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited, and it is precious,” he added, saying that, like many parents, he immediately had thoughts of his two children when he heard news of the shooting, which took place at a screening of the new Batman movie. He and First Lady Michelle Obama “will hug our girls a little tighter tonight,” Obama said, and the nation will need to “embrace” the parents whose children were killed or injured.
Before the event, campaign press secretary Jen Psaki said that the Obama campaign had asked television stations in Colorado to pull “contrast” ads critical of Republican Mitt Romney off the air for the time being.
Romney campaign press secretary Andrea Saul announced shortly afterward that the GOP campaign would do the same. "Super PACs" supporting the two candidates said they also had pulled their advertisements in the state.
Members of the audience, some of whom had lined up as early as 6 a.m., had broken out into occasional cheers, including one of "Four More Years" before Obama appeared. Some initially murmured in disappointment when told the president would be delivering only brief remarks, not the campaign speech they expected.
Gone from the large convention hall were any of the touches of a campaign event seen at the president’s two appearances elsewhere in Florida; no "Forward" banner, no cutout letters spelling "FL (hearts) Obama," only red, white and blue bunting in front of the podium.
Similarly, at Romney’s first campaign event of the day, aides similarly removed the usual "Obama's Upside-Down Economy" banners, leaving just a few flags as a backdrop.
The president spoke for just over seven minutes from a lectern bearing the presidential seal.
Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama also canceled scheduled campaign stops in Texas and Virginia, respectively.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking with reporters on Air Force One en route to Ft. Myers from West Palm Beach, Fla., said the president had been initially briefed on the shooting before dawn by his homeland security advisor John Brennan. He had another briefing en route to the airport from Brennan as well as FBI Director Robert Mueller and Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and later spoke with the governor.
The president ordered his administration to do "everything it can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time,” Carney said.
Asked if the incident would spur any further push by the president to strengthen gun laws, Carney said the president continues to believe that the nation needs “common sense measures that protect the 2nd Amendment rights of Americans while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing laws do not get them.”