Washington (CNN) – "Reprehensible." "Irresponsible." "Hard to stomach."
White House senior adviser David Plouffe did not mince words Sunday when talking about the reaction by Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to President Barack Obama's comments on the Trayvon Martin shooting.
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"Those two comments are really irresponsible. I would consider them reprehensible," Plouffe said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think those comments were really hard to stomach, really, and I guess trying to appeal to people's worst instincts."
While the GOP presidential candidates said the incident was a tragedy, Santorum and Gingrich were particularly critical of the president's response to the shooting in which Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was shot and killed by a George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin in self-defense.
A somber Obama on Friday commiserated with the Martin family and urged authorities to fully investigate the shooting.
"If I had a son he would look like Trayvon," Obama said. "I think (his parents) are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we will get to the bottom of exactly what happened."
Santorum said the president politicized the events, while Gingrich characterized Obama's comments as "nonsense."
"What the president of the United States should do is try to bring people together, not use these types of horrible and tragic individual cases to try to drive a wedge in America," Santorum said Friday on "The Hugh Hewitt Show," a radio program.
"Is the president suggesting if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn't look like him? That's just nonsense," Gingrich said Friday on conservative host Sean Hannity's radio show, "The Hannity Show." "I mean dividing this country up, it is a tragedy this young man was shot."
But Plouffe, who served as Obama's 2008 campaign manager, said the Republican reaction is evidence of a circus-like primary.
"I don't think there's very many people in America that would share that reaction. You know, this Republican primary at some points has been more of a circus show and a clown show," Plouffe told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
Although he indicated the Obama campaign expects Romney to be the Republican nominee, Plouffe also predicted an aggressive election come fall.
"Romney has a big delegate lead so we've always felt you know because Romney's won a couple of big states lately, the fundamentals kind of support him," Plouffe said. "But it's going to be a close competitive race no matter who come out the other side."
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