James E. Holmes, left, appears in Arapahoe County District Court, with defense attorney Tamara Brady, Monday in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations stemming from a mass shooting Friday in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured dozens of others. — AP
AURORA, Colorado — President Barack Obama put politics aside for another day, traveling to Colorado to offer hugs, tears and the nation’s sympathy to survivors of the Colorado shooting rampage and to families whose loved ones were shot dead
For a president nearing the end of his term and seeking a second one, Sunday presented another grim occasion for him to serve as consoler, a role that has become a crucial facet of the job.
National tragedies compel presidents to show leadership and a comforting touch — or risk a plummeting public standing if they cannot match the moment.
“I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband,” said Obama, addressing reporters from a hospital hallway after his visits.
Obama aid he shed tears with relatives of those who died as the community struggles to recover from Friday’s shooting at a screening of the latest Batman movie, which also left 58 injured. “I confessed to them that words are always inadequate in these types of situations,” he said as thousands gathered for a vigil outside the municipal center in Aurora, just outside Denver.
Speaking after visiting with families in hospital, he said he “had the chance to give folks some hugs, and to shed some tears, but also to share some laughs” as families remembered the “wonderful” lives of their loved ones.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney said Obama’s meeting with the families was “the right thing.”
The massacre early Friday in the Aurora movie theater left 12 dead and 58 wounded. It also temporarily silenced a bitter campaign fight for the White House between Obama and Romney.
A single suspect, James Holmes, is being held without bond on suspicion of multiple counts of first-degree murder after the shooting rampage, which occurred minutes into a premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” Batman movie early Friday in this suburb outside Denver.
Both men were searching for the right time and manner to re-enter the political debate.
Obama’s stop in Colorado — by chance a key state in the state-by-state election — came as he was about to shift into a mix of campaign fundraisers and official travel across the West starting Monday. Romney resumed political activities Sunday in California, where he courted Republican donors in three fundraisers in the San Francisco area.
“I know the president is in Colorado today,” Romney told supporters while keeping a subdued tone. “He’s visiting with families and friends of the victims, which is the right thing for the president to be doing on this day — appreciate that.”
The rampage injected a new tone into the campaign after Obama and Romney had clashed repeatedly over the economy, health care programs for the elderly, and the Republican candidate’s tax returns.
When the shootings occurred, Obama was set to start his second day of events in Florida, prompting his team to address the violence at a previously scheduled rally in Fort Myers, Florida, and scrapping an event in suburban Orlando.
Romney echoed Obama’s call for unity, saying at a previously scheduled event in Bow, New Hampshire, that he joined with the president and first lady in offering condolences for those “whose lives were shattered in a few moments, a few moments of evil in Colorado.”
“The answer is that we can come together. We will show our fellow citizens the good heart of the America we know and love,” Romney said. — AP