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Deadly Shootings Put Politics In Suspense


American flags are flying at half-staff today over the White House, and elsewhere in the country. The shootings in Aurora have silenced politics as usual - at least, for the moment. The Romney and Obama campaigns have both pulled their TV ads from the air in Colorado, a state that had three top political advertising markets in the country this week. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on a somber day on the campaign trail.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: In Fort Myers, Florida, thousands of President Obama's supporters showed up for what was originally planned to be a rip-roaring campaign rally. When the president began to speak, some in the crowd reacted as though they were hearing for the first time, the news of Aurora shooting.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am so moved by your support. But there are going to be other days for politics. This, I think is, a day for prayer and reflection.

SHAPIRO: The president led the group in a moment of silence. And he spoke as a parent, saying that his daughters - Malia and Sasha - go to the movies, like most kids.

OBAMA: Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I'm sure you will do the same with your children. But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them, as a nation.

SHAPIRO: The president canceled a planned campaign event in Orlando, and flew back to Washington early. The vice president and first lady also canceled their scheduled events - as did Ann Romney, the wife of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Romney himself abandoned the standard trappings of the campaign, at a event in New Hampshire. There was no introductory music. There were no banners with political slogans; just American flags in front of a leafy, green horizon.

A priest from nearby Concord led a prayer, and then Romney took the stage.

MITT ROMNEY: I stand before you today not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American.

SHAPIRO: He said he and Ann joined the president and first lady, in offering condolences. In New Hampshire, Romney offered a lesson through Scripture - something he rarely does on the campaign trail.

ROMNEY: The Apostle Paul explained, blessed be God who comforteth us in all our tribulations; that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble. What we do know is how evil is overcome. We're seeing that greater power today, in the goodness and compassion of a wounded community.

SHAPIRO: Not everyone appreciated the change in program. Aram Delevan(ph) is 30, and unemployed.

ARAM DELEVAN: I'm actually more worried about the economy. I was actually at a retirement center, and they had two positions open. And it was part-time work, doing dishwashing. Well, they had 302 people go in there to fill out applications, for two jobs that's part time. So you tell me which is more important: the economy, or what's happening in Colorado?

SHAPIRO: But to Bill Sweeney, who works at this lumber company, the pause in partisan sniping felt necessary and appropriate.

BILL SWEENEY: It just makes you put it on hold a little bit; for a few days. We're going to mourn, and everyone's going to move on and get beyond it. But it's not going to happen immediately.

SHAPIRO: When the event ended, Romney stood at the edge of the lumber company lot, and shook hands with each person slowly leaving. Ari Shapiro, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.