As the growing caravan of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates jockey furiously to distinguish themselves from one another, many are seeking to set themselves apart over the tragedy that has captured the nation’s attention: the mass shooting at a South Carolina church.
In a flurry of written statements, public remarks and social media posts, candidates and would-be hopefuls have signaled where they stand on religion, guns and race, three sensitive issues at the center of Wednesday’s deadly attack at a black church, which is being investigated as a hate crime at the hands of a white man.
In some cases, their input has been subtle. Other times, unmistakable. The reactions, which have poured in from the field in the day-and-a-half since the slayings, highlight how the candidates want to be perceived by voters. They also provide a telling glimpse of how they plan to campaign in the comings months.
While most of the candidates expressed condolences without trying to sound political, their undertones showed how they intend to pursue the presidency in the coming months.
“Sadly, that’s the nature of politics,” said Ford O’Connell, who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Most Americans don’t follow it all that closely and when you have a national backdrop like this, regardless of party, most politicians feel a need not to let a crisis go to waste politically, as crass as that may sound.”