Aurora theater shooting: Millions in campaign ads put on hold

In response to the Aurora theater shooting on Friday, the presidential campaigns and super PACs that have been pouring money into television ads have all temporarily suspended commercials airing in Colorado. In Denver metro, that's at least a million dollars worth, according to one network source with close knowledge of these ad buys.

A spokeswoman for the Obama campaign confirms that in light of the Aurora tragedy, the campaign has asked affiliates in Colorado to suspend all campaign advertising until further notice. The Romney campaign also confirms to us that ads are suspended for the time being with no set date of when they'll be back up. Neither campaign would offer specific details about how long ads will be canceled or whether the delay will lead to a financial loss for the campaigns.

Back in June when we investigated campaign ad finances in the Denver market, we found that at one of the major TV stations, Obama was spending about four times as much as Romney on ads.

Super PACs Priorities USA (which is promoting Obama) and Restore Our Future (backing Romney) were also pouring money into Denver TV ads in June. And Crossroads GPS, another pro-Romney group affiliated with Republican Super PAC American Crossroads, launched a major ad blitz in Colorado earlier this month.

A spokeswoman for Priorities USA says the group announced on Friday it would be suspending ads, pointing us in the direction of a tweet from Bill Burton, senior strategist for Priorities USA Action. It reads: "Priorities is suspending advertising in Colorado. Our prayers are with the victims of this horrible tragedy."

A spokesman from Crossroads didn't get back to us as of this writing, but the organization told ABC News that it has requested suspensions of its TV and internet ads in the state. Crossroads GPS is taking a similar approach, as demonstrated by this statement from iSteven Law, its president:

In moments of tragedy like the Aurora shooting, we all stand together as Americans and are reminded of the precious gifts of life, family and community that we share. We pause to honor and pray for those whose lives have been tragically cut short, as well as those who must bear this terrible loss. And we give thanks for the powerful spirit of compassion and concern that unites us all in our country and reaches out to those who are in the crucible of suffering.

A Restore Our Future spokeswoman says the group doesn't currently have ads in Colorado.

The suspensions represent a change of tone from the fast-paced race to release increasingly negative ads that's been dominating the election cycle and is especially pronounced in key swing states like Colorado.

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This morning, 9NEWS President and General Manager Mark Cornetta confirms that all the campaigns have suspended ads through Friday at his station. He explains that the ads, which have already been paid for, will run at a later time, possibly as early as Saturday. The process is fluid, he says, adding that 9NEWS -- which typically sells the most political ads locally -- is in contact with the campaigns. The campaigns will be made good for the money they've already paid, he notes. However, it's unclear to Cornetta whether they'll buy fewer ads in the future because of this delay. If they do, the result could constitute a revenue loss to the Denver marketplace.

Stations will decide how they will respond to the request to suspend ads. But most will probably follow 9News' lead and put them on hold until further notice.

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Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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