President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama lead the nation in a moment of silence Monday honoring the victims of the Arizona shootings.
President Barack Obama will do more than try to heal the nation with his speech in Tucson, Ariz., tonight: He'll try to recast his presidency and regain the trust of Americans who have lost faith in him over the past two years.
All eyes will be on Obama at 8 p.m. Eastern time as he addresses a memorial service at the University of Arizona for the victims of Saturday's shooting rampage. White House aides say the president has been working on his remarks since Monday night and will devote much of them to honoring the victims.
"The president believes that right now the main thing we should be doing is offering our thoughts and prayers to those who've been impacted and making sure that we're joining together and pulling together as a country," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
It's a critical moment for Obama. Facing re-election in just two years, he has a narrow opportunity to prove he is the consensus-maker he promised he would be and win back the support of the public that elected him to the White House in 2008. His challenge is further heightened by a newly divided government — a GOP-controlled House — and a political landscape that many believe plays to the Republicans' advantage in 2012.
Democratic Members and aides say they are looking for Obama to dig deeper and recapture the sense of shared purpose that existed on the day of his inauguration — something that has faded amid the vitriolic political climate that some argue contributed to Saturday's violence.
Obama needs "to remind folks that we are all in this together — like he did during the campaign," one senior Democratic aide said. "Everyone felt a sense of pride in how great America is. To some degree, this is his 'standing on the rubble at ground zero' moment."
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said Obama should take a lesson from President Bill Clinton, who he said handled the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing with mastery. Many believe Clinton's response to that tragedy helped ensure his re-election in 1996.
"We need less of the cerebral Obama and more of the visceral Obama," Connolly said. "He needs to give us a Bill Clinton moment: I really do feel your pain."
House Democrats also emphasized how crucial of a moment the tragedy is for Obama in terms of bringing people together.