BOW, N.H – Mitt Romney put politics aside for the day and urged Americans to “come together” after a Colorado man killed 12 and wounded dozens more when he opened fire at a midnight showing of the Batman movie The Dark Night Rises.
“I stand before you today not as a man running for office but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American,” Romney said, reading from prepared remarks to subdued listeners who originally thought they’d be attending a campaign rally. “This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another and how much we love and how much we care for our great country.”
After a week of attacks flying back and forth between them and their camps, Romney and President Obama abruptly shifted gears on Friday with speeches meant to bring the country together in a moment of mourning.
“Ann and I join the president and first lady and all Americans in offering our deepest condolences for those whose lives were shattered in a few moments, a few moments of evil in Colorado,” Romney said.
Romney had been scheduled to hold a rally at a lumber wholesaler here. But after learning about the shooting from news reports on Friday morning, his staff immediately began working on plans for a far more somber event that would not be focused on politics, according to an aide.
Campaign signs hitting Obama for an “upside down economy” were removed and the advance team was told not to play the usual playlist of music that welcomes audiences to every Romney event. Instead of scheduled speeches from local officials, including a state senator and sheriff, the campaign reached out to an Anglican priest from neighboring Concord and asked him to offer a prayer before Romney spoke. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who had been scheduled to introduce Romney, instead offered her own prayer for the victims, before solemnly turning the microphone over to her “friend, Mitt Romney.”
Romney himself spoke for just under four minutes, at one point quoting scripture and offering a prayer that “the wounded will recover and that those who are grieving will know the nearness of God.” He praised Americans for having “so much love and goodness” in their hearts, and said that the outpouring of support toward the victims and their families highlights a “greater power … in the goodness and compassion of a wounded community.”
Following his remarks, Romney walked toward the exit of the venue and began shaking hands with the crowd as they filed out. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision made by the former governor himself, according to a campaign aide. Janice Moser, who came from upstate New Hampshire to hear Romney speak, appreciated his tone and the gesture.
“Being a mom, you know, it is an emotional time, knowing that my if kids just go to an entertainment event, you know, that things could happen,” she told reporters following Romney’s remarks. “So I just think it was very good that he did what he did. And you know, it shows he’s a family man, which is great. I think this country needs someone like that.”