It was more than an unusual case of agreement between the political foes. At times, they sounded just like each other, speaking of evil and of prayer, of the unfulfilled dreams of those killed, of the need to put aside daily and petty grievances to appreciate life and show compassion to others.
The president openly wondered of his 14-year-old and 11-year-old daughters: "What if Malia and Sasha had been in the theater?"
Addressing a crowd that had gathered for what was expected to be a raucous political rally, he said somberly, "Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I'm sure you will do the same with your children."
Likewise, Romney said to his audience, "Each one of us will hold our kids a little closer." He said, "I stand before you today not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American."
Amid their calls for unity and prayer, both men said nothing of gun control, a polarizing issue that has been all but absent from the campaign debate this year. Both Romney and Obama have shifted with the times, moving away from stances that favored tougher gun-control laws.
"If there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's the reminder that life is very fragile," Obama said in Fort Myers, Fla.
"What matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it's not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives," Obama said. "Ultimately, it's how we choose to treat one another and how we love another."
Romney, outside a Bow, N.H., business, said that he and his wife, Ann, joined Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in offering condolences to those whose lives had been shattered.
"This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another," Romney said, "and how much we love and how much we care for our great country."