But at neither event was there any sign of the blistering attacks that have marked one of the most negative weeks of the White House race to date.
Nor did either candidate address the issue of gun control, which was forcefully raised separately by such advocates as New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
“There are going to be other days for politics,” Obama told an audience that had gathered for what was originally intended to be a political speech in Fort Myers. “This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.” He led the audience in a moment of silence “for the victims of this terrible tragedy,” their loved ones and for “all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.”
Obama then cut short his campaign swing through Florida and returned to the White House to deal with what he called the “senseless” shooting.
He later ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on government buildings and facilities until sunset on July 25.
In Bow, N.H., Romney also opted to forgo a planned campaign speech, instead delivering solemn and spiritual remarks abut the “unspeakable tragedy” in Colorado.
The shooting is a “reminder that life is fragile,” Obama said in a six-minute speech at a convention center full of supporters. “Our time here is limited, and it is precious, and what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.”
Displayed at the event were an American flag and bunting, but — as at Romney’s event at a lumber company in Bow — there were no campaign signs, no music, and the mood of the crowd was somber.
“We may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this,” Obama said. “Such violence, such evil, is senseless. It’s beyond reason.”
Obama noted that children, including his own two daughters, often go to the movies. He said he and first lady Michelle Obama would “hug our girls tighter tonight.”
He pledged, “The federal government stands ready to do whatever’s necessary to bring whoever’s responsible for this heinous crime to justice.... We’re going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.”
After weeks of calling on Romney to release more of his tax returns and hammering him on his tenure at Bain Capital, Obama mentioned neither in his Friday remarks.
In New Hampshire, Romney similarly refrained from pummeling Obama for remarks that Republicans argue show that the president is hostile to small business.