Week Ahead In Politics: Colo. Shooting Fallout

Even as the country grieves over the mass killings in Colorado — a major battleground in the coming election — the public policy and political fallout has become part of the story.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Both presidential campaigns announced they were suspending TV advertising in Colorado, which is a major battleground in the coming election. And even as the country grieves over the mass killings, the public policy and political fallout has become part of the story.

We're going to follow that now with political analyst Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Monday mornings. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How important is the president's role after an event like this? He showed up yesterday in Colorado, of course.

ROBERTS: I think that that consoler-in-chief, as it's come to be called, is a very important role in this world of instant communications, where the country sort of is looking for someone to put words to what everyone is feeling, the grief and concern. And that someone is most naturally the president of the United States. And, of course, it's particularly meaningful to the families involved. And that's what President Obama did, was to go and meet with those families and come out somewhat teary-eyed and quoting from Scripture.

His likely opponent, Mitt Romney, said it was the right thing for him to do, to be there. You know, Steve, at one point, I was at Whidbey Island when the people who had been in that shot down - or captured American plane in China came back, and it was Easter Sunday and President Bush had decided not to come because he didn't want to distract from the families' ability to enjoy each other's reunion.

But the truth is, they were very disappointed that he wasn't there. They wanted him there. So I think that the president made the right call by doing that.

INSKEEP: Now, Mitt Romney, of course, is not going to be playing that role. He cannot. He's a candidate. But he also has other roles he can play. He's going to Europe as a kind of reminder of the job he did making a success of the Salt Lake City Olympics some years ago.

ROBERTS: Right, going to the Olympics in Europe. And he needs to get that narrative out there, because he's had a rough few weeks - not that it seems to have had much effect in the polls, but his tenure at the head of Bain Capital has been under just constant barrage from the Obama campaign. And his tenure as governor of Massachusetts runs into problems with his own Republicans, because they don't like the fact that he passed a - or approved a health care bill very similar to Obamacare, and, of course, this week, once again, coming up, that he signed an assault weapons ban when he was governor of Massachusetts. So the Olympics is a good story for him to get out there now.

INSKEEP: How does it affect the challenger in a situation like this, where, for some period of time, some period of days or longer, the news is not about the campaign, it's not about him? Or at least the leading item on the news is not.

ROBERTS: Well, it's one of those things that you see in political campaigns. We say all the time, you know, events could change everything. And this is one of those events that does affect the campaign just, if for no other way, by getting him out of the living rooms of people in Colorado. But, look, new issues come up, and right now we're going to talk for a little while about gun control, you know.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is calling on the candidates to debate that issue, and he says they should be held accountable to the voters on that issue. Now, I think it's going to take a lot more than Mayor Bloomberg to get the candidates to respond. The president's spokesman said that the president's more focused on enforcing existing laws, and the Justice Department came out with a fact sheet on how they're doing that.

But they're certainly not pressing for new laws, although, Steve, I think that the fact that this alleged perpetrator purchased thousands, thousands and thousands of rounds of ammunition on the Internet might start people talking about new laws that would at least require reporting of that kind of purchase, because it certainly would raise some red flags. But gun control is not an issue that most politicians want to talk about.

They are scared of the National Rifle Association - probably overly scared of it, according to former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who says, you know, this is - Democrats are just as bad as Republicans on this subject.

INSKEEP: Okay, thanks very much. That's Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Monday mornings here on MORNING EDITION.

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