Jul 22, 2012 4:37 PM by Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Once again donning the mantle of consoler-in-chief, President Barack Obama will travel Sunday to Colorado to comfort distraught families of those gunned down in a minute and a half of real-life horror at a midnight movie showing.
While authorities gather evidence on the suspect and the nation tries to fathom what drove the gunman, Obama will meet with loved ones struggling with pain and grief.
"We need to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation," Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.
The president planned just a brief visit to Colorado - a bit under 2 1/2 hours - during which he was also scheduled to meet with local officials in Aurora, where the shots rang out at a multiplex theater early Friday. Twelve of the victims died, 58 were injured.
After the Colorado stop, Obama is flying to San Francisco, where on Monday he'll begin a previously scheduled three-day campaign trip that includes a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., multiple fundraisers in California, Oregon and Washington state and a speech to the National Urban League convention in New Orleans.
The shock of Friday's rampage brought the sprawling and sometimes vitriolic presidential campaign to a virtual standstill.
Obama cut short a political trip to Florida to return to Washington. Mitt Romney canceled interviews. Both campaigns pulled ads off the air in Colorado out of respect for the victims.
But with election activities set to resume in the new week, Vice President Joe Biden is speaking to the National Association of Police Organizations in Palm Beach County, Fla., on Monday, and Romney is to address the VFW on Tuesday.
For Obama, the unhappy task of articulating sorrow and loss has become a familiar one.
Indeed, for modern presidents, it's become an accepted facet of the office - and for some, an opportunity for soaring words that rise above the partisan trench warfare of day-to-day governing.
Not 10 months in office, Obama led mourners at a service for victims of the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting, bowing his head before shrines of framed photos and boots belonging to the soldiers among the 13 who perished.
In January of last year, he spoke at a memorial for the six victims killed in Tucson, Ariz., when a gunman attacked Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as she met with constituents.
The following April, when some 300 people were killed in a multi-state outbreak of tornadoes, Obama flew to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to commiserate with residents whose homes were in ruins. A month later, Obama went to Joplin, Mo., after a monster twister claimed 161 lives. This year, he came back on the storm's anniversary to give a commencement speech at Joplin High School.
In between these public observances have been countless private meetings with families of troops who fell in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For Obama, the Colorado visit was to be his second in just over three weeks. Last month, he flew to Colorado Springs to share the pain of homeowners whose houses had been turned to charred heaps by a record outbreak of wildfires.
Obama had already been a frequent Colorado visitor - no surprise given the state's key role in his re-election bid. He won the state by more than 8 percentage points over John McCain four years ago. But neither Obama's nor Romney's camp expects that big a margin this time. Recent polls place Obama's lead inside the margin of error.
But for one more day, at least, electoral considerations remained on the back burner.
"This weekend I hope everyone takes some time for prayer and reflection," Obama said in his Saturday broadcast, "for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover."