Obama, Romney ease back into fighting mode

Silenced for a weekend, the race for the White House reverted to divisive form Monday, as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney found enough distance from a national tragedy to get back to the politics of getting elected.

Obama tried to put the squeeze on Romney, with the president's campaign aides demanding "substantive" expectations for the Romney's upcoming trip to England, Israel and Poland. Headed for Nevada, Obama was touting his foreign policy record to the Veterans of Foreign Wars a day before Romney addresses the group.

Romney, addressing donors, returned to his critique that Obama is "out of ideas, out of excuses, and we've got to make sure in November we put him out of office." He cautioned the public not to look to government for answers in response to the Colorado shooting. Instead, he urged people to reach out locally to help people in need.

Still in the shadow of a rampage that united the nation in grief, the campaigns weighed how much and how fast to calibrate their tones. They seemed intent on returning to the business of defining their message and their opponents, albeit not quite yet with the vitriol of earlier weeks.

The race is tight, both nationally and in the select states expected to decide the outcome, polls show.

That leaves little time for either side to dial down.

Foreign policy and national security, marginalized in this economy-centered election year, moved briefly to the fore.

In a conference call with reporters, Obama campaign officials challenged Romney to offer specific policy ideas during his three-country trip this week. Romney's travels are highly anticipated as a measure of how well he can stand up on the world stage. Obama took an even broader such trip as a candidate in 2008.

"If Romney wants to be president, if he is ready to be commander in chief, he needs to prove that he's willing to have open and honest discussions about his world views, about his beliefs, about his policies with some of our strongest allies," said Michele Flournoy, a campaign adviser and former top policy official at the Pentagon.

Four years ago, trying to burnish his own credentials against military hero Sen. John McCain, Obama traveled extensively to the Middle East and Europe, with stops in both war fronts of Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama adviser Robert Gibbs said the question for Romney is whether his trip "will be similar substantively" for voters.

In California, Romney was raising money in the wealthy and Republican heavy area of Orange County on Monday after holding three fundraisers in the San Francisco Bay area the previous night. He was expected to raise $10 million during the swing.

Romney was scheduled to hold a business discussion in Irvine, Calif., before heading to Reno, Nev. for his VFW speech on Tuesday.

Obama is on a previously scheduled three-day trip that includes campaign fundraisers Monday in California and Tuesday in Seattle. He was expected to raise more than $6 million on the West Coast.

Both campaigns were keeping their largely negative television advertisements off the air in Colorado, a key battleground state in the November election.

The presidential race resumed as the accused Colorado shooter appeared in court Monday for the first time.

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning for his boss in Florida, jettisoned his typical speech to focus on the shooting victims and the stories of heroism from that night.

He told National Association of Police Organizations: "There's a hell of a lot more good out there than the evil you're sworn to take on."

The massacre stalled a race for the White House that had becoming increasingly bitter.

Romney made a low-key return to political activity Sunday night at his fundraisers, telling supporters he would tone down his political rhetoric, at least for the night, in "keeping with the seriousness of the day." The former Massachusetts governor avoided attacking Obama by name.

Obama on Sunday spent hours in emotional private meetings with the families of the dead and also met with some of those injured in the attacks.

"I hope that over the next several days, next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country," Obama said. Romney said Obama's trip was "the right thing for the president to be doing on this day."

The Obama campaign launched the week with a web video titled "Welcome Home Our Veterans," celebrating Obama's record on veterans' issues. It includes personal testimonials from former servicemen and women who thank him for supporting the troops.

The film takes special note of Obama's work to end the U.S. military role in Iraq.

Much of Romney's week will be focused on America's role abroad. In his first trip overseas as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he is expected to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in London and then meet with foreign dignitaries in England, Israel and Poland.


Beaumont reported from Irvine, Calif. AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller in Washington and Associated Press writer Matt Sedensky in Manalapan, Fla., contributed to this report.