As I write this, it's now been 24 hours since the shooting in Colorado.

It's a major news story. It has dominated the headlines.

A police officer was killed in the line of duty. Two civilians were killed. Many others were wounded.

And the leading candidates for the Republican Party's presidential nomination have, with one exception, remained silent.

While the motive for the shooting is still unclear, the Republican mayor of Colorado Springs suggested the location of the attack gave a strong clue to what drove the gunman.

The location was a Planned Parenthood clinic. Planned Parenthood provides women's health services in the US. A small part of that is to provide information and help with abortions.

Earlier this year, heavily edited videos suggested the group was selling fetal tissue for profit. A congressional inquiry found Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong.

Republican opposition

Yet all of the leading Republican candidates have spoken out against the organisation.

Some have called for its federal funds to be cut. Texas Senator Ted Cruz even suggested shutting down the government rather than continue to fund the group. Marco Rubio has wondered out loud why more Americans don't get "fired up" about Planned Parenthood's "dead babies".

The issue plays very well with the Republican base. And there lies the reason for the deafening silence from the Republican hopefuls.

Of the leading contenders, only Ted Cruz has issued any sort of statement. He tweeted: "Praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs."

The shooting also touches on another key issue for Republicans, and that is their widespread opposition to any reform of the US' gun laws.

One Republican operative told me that the campaigns will be waiting for more information - but admitted the whole thing made it "politically awkward" for candidates to strike the right balance.

But a Republican strategist told Yahoo News that "GOP candidates should easily be able to express sorrow, whether this situation is politically uncomfortable or not."

All of the Democratic candidates have condemned the shooting unequivocally. President Barack Obama was very strong on the issue.

The Republicans are clearly weighing what stance does less damage - and how they can speak out without annoying their base and, by extension, their campaigns.

Yet the longer the silence, the more harshly they may be judged when it comes to next year's presidential election.

Source: Al Jazeera