CHARLESTON, W.Va.--Sen. Joe Manchin said his infamous "Dead Aim" political ad should not be connected to the tragedy that occurred over the weekend in Tucson, Ariz., but he doubts he would use it again now that the horrific event has occurred.
A mass shooting there Saturday left six dead and 14 others injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Although the suspect in the shootings has a history of emotional instability, the incident has brought a renewed focus on vitriolic political rhetoric.
Last March, Sarah Palin posted a map on her Facebook page with crosshair targets representing 20 Democratic lawmakers she was singling out for defeat after they voted for President Obama's health care plan. One of them was Giffords.
And Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik commented after the shootings, "The fiery rhetoric that has taken hold in politics may be free speech, but it's not without consequences."
On Monday, Manchin was asked about his memorable advertisement during the fall Senate campaign against Republican John Raese. In what Politico called one of the Top 10 political moments of the year, Manchin used a rifle to shoot a bullet through the proposed federal cap-and-trade legislation.
The "Dead Aim" ad proved to be the key turning point in the campaign and gained national attention.
When asked about the ad in light of the Saturday incident, Manchin said, "You're comparing a metaphor to an act - a heinous act by deranged, mad person - I don't really see the connection."
During a Monday afternoon conference call with reporters, he pointed to the fact that he wasn't targeting a person, but rather a piece of paper in an ad that should be taken symbolically, not literally.
"You've never seen me talk about a person," he said. "We're talking about legislation and policies."
But Manchin did say that the mass shooting over the weekend has made everyone more sensitive to that type of rhetoric and, while the ad and the tragedy may not be related, he didn't think his campaign would release the spot again.
"I can't say that we would, I really can't," Manchin said. "It's a much more sensitive thing we're dealing with right now."
The incident particularly affected a member of Manchin's Senate staff. His newly appointed press secretary, Emily Bittner, worked on Giffords' 2007-08 congressional campaign.