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Jul 21, 2012, 03.14 PM IST
USA-SHOOTING-OBAMA-CAMPAIGN:U.S. presidential campaigns shift gears after shootings
By Richard Cowan and Alister Bull
FORT MYERS, Florida (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and his rival Mitt Romney on Friday canceled presidential campaign-style speeches and some ads attacking each other, replacing them with expressions of sorrow for the victims of a deadly shooting rampage in Colorado.
Obama, briefed by aides early in the morning, was to return to Washington after addressing the incident during remarks at an event in Fort Myers, Florida.
A gunman in a gas mask and bullet-proof vest killed 12 people at a midnight premiere of the new Batman movie in a suburb of Denver early on Friday, sparking pandemonium when he hurled a gas canister into the auditorium and opened fire on moviegoers.
"I'm sure many of you are parents who had the same reaction I did when we heard the news," Obama told the crowd. "My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater as so many kids do each day?"
" ... I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today. May the lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come," he said.
The president had been scheduled to speak later on Friday at a second campaign event, in Winter Park, Florida.
First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also canceled their campaign events for the day.
Romney issued a statement saying he was "saddened by the news of the sensless violence" in Colorado and said he expected the shooter "will be quickly brought to justice."
Romney was expected to talk more about the tragedy at an afternoon speech in New Hampshire.
His campaign pulled ads in Colorado and canceled appearances by his wife.
The rampage took place some four months before the November 6 general election.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who was traveling with Obama in Florida, said the campaign had "asked affiliates to pull down our contrast advertising for the time being. It takes time for stations to be able to do this, but we are making every effort."
Obama spoke by telephone with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper for an update on the incident while traveling to the event in Fort Myers, the White House said.
(Reporting By Laura MacInnis; Editing by Xavier Briand)
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