Obama Uses Colorado Stop To Address Foreign Policy

This campaign season, President Obama is trying to keep Colorado on his side. Scott Horsley talks to Audie Cornish.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, are both campaigning today in pivotal battleground states. Mr. Obama is in Colorado. Romney's in Virginia. The economy remains a central focus for the two men, but that's been overshadowed in the last 48 hours by events in the Middle East.

We'll hear from the Romney campaign in a moment. First, NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley joins us from Golden, Colorado. Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: So is this another case where the president is having to adjust his campaigning in light of events? And if so, what's he been doing?

HORSLEY: Well, he is. This is actually the second day of a two-day swing to the Mountain West for President Obama. He was forced to delay his departure to Nevada yesterday. But before he left Washington, he went to the State Department and met with some of the colleagues of Ambassador Chris Stevens who was killed along with three other diplomats in Libya this week.

He's been talking by telephone with the leaders of Libya and Egypt. White House spokesman Jay Carney has described those calls as productive. He was getting a briefing from his national security team immediately after his rally here in Colorado. At the same time, one of the Obama supporters who was in the crowd here told me that she was glad the president didn't suspend his campaigning because she really wanted to hear what he had to say, both about the sort of domestic policy issues that have been staples on the campaign trail, but also what he had to say about the Middle East.

CORNISH: So what is the president telling voters at these campaign events about what's happening in Libya and Egypt and Yemen?

HORSLEY: Well, he said today that our hearts are heavy. He had high praise for the diplomats who were killed in Benghazi and all of those in uniform and civilians who serve in dangerous places, he said, to advance the interest and values of the American people. He talked about the steps that the administration has been taking to secure personnel who are serving overseas. And also, he said that those who are responsible for the deaths of the Americans in Libya will be brought to justice.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want people around the world to hear me, to all those who would do us harm: No act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.

HORSLEY: And one of those values, he said, is the freedom to choose our own leaders. And with that, he rather seamlessly segued into the rest of his standard campaign stump speech and carried on with the campaigning.

CORNISH: Now is the president also responding to Mitt Romney's criticism of the initial response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo?

HORSLEY: He's not talking about that at these campaign events. Now, of course he did give an interview to CBS News yesterday in which he said that Romney showed a tendency to shoot first and aim second. But Mr. Obama seems content to sort of let Romney's own words work against him and after all, Romney's getting plenty of criticism from his fellow Republicans for what he had to say early on in this episode. That's allowing the president to sort of stay above the fray.

I did talk to a number of people in the crowd today, Obama supporters who felt as if Mitt Romney had put his foot in his mouth, not for the first time they said. One woman told me, when U.S. diplomats are being killed in the line of duty, it's not a time to play politics. It should be a time for Americans to come together.

CORNISH: And, Scott, lastly, we mentioned Colorado is a battleground state. Give us the state of play there.

HORSLEY: Well, Audie, Colorado is one of those states where a lot of votes are going to be cast early well before Election Day. Something like 70 percent of votes in 2008 here were cast early, and so the Obama campaign is putting a lot of emphasis on this state at this stage in the election cycle. This is the president's third trip to Colorado in as many weeks.

CORNISH: NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley. He spoke to us from Golden, Colorado. Scott, thank you.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Audie.

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