WASHINGTON -- President Obama is set to deliver the first of a pair of dueling national-security speeches by the major White House hopefuls, as he sets out on a three-day trip for official and political events that has been scaled back following Friday’s shootings in Colorado.
In a speech Monday before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the president plans to “discuss his administration’s work to secure our nation, fight terrorism, renew American leadership in the world, better serve our troops and military families and honor our veterans,” the White House said.
It is Obama’s first address to the leading veterans group since 2009. Mitt Romney plans to speak at the same convention in Reno on Tuesday, with his remarks expected to set the tone for a weeklong overseas trip intended to bolster the likely Republican nominee’s foreign policy credentials.
Polls have shown the president with an advantage over Romney on national security and foreign policy, areas that the surveys indicate hold less significance to voters in an election dominated by the economy.
In advance of the president’s speech, the Obama campaign released a video that highlights “welcome home” celebrations for service members who fought in Iraq. A Vietnam War veteran calls the president’s efforts on behalf of all vets “tireless.”
Obama’s trip, which includes fundraising stops in the Bay Area, Seattle and Portland, Ore., as well as a speech to the National Urban League in New Orleans, began ahead of schedule and on a somber note as he visited Sunday with the families of victims of the movie theater rampage that killed 12 and wounded dozens more in Aurora, Colo.
Obama asked Americans to focus on the bravery and courage of the victims.
“Although the perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the last couple of days, that attention will fade away, and in the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy,” Obama told reporters after meeting privately with some of the wounded and members of the slain victims’ families at the University of Colorado Hospital.
The president’s’ trip will have a different feel in light of Friday’s attack, as both sides carefully navigate the altered national mood. Obama’s campaign will not be airing television ads in Colorado this week. One of several scheduled events in Portland on Tuesday, a youth-oriented “grass-roots” fundraiser, has been canceled.
“There’s not a playbook for this,” campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki said Sunday.
Of course, the money raised during the trip will go to fund further attack ads when things inevitably return to normal. Obama has three scheduled fundraisers in Oakland on Monday night, the largest at the Fox Theater. He is to return to Washington Wednesday night.
Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.