ABC News' Huma Khan reports: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., one of a number of 2010 candidates who used gun imagery in their campaigns, today explicitly separated himself from those who targeted specific candidates and expressed doubts that he would run the same ad again today.
“I've spent my whole career bringing people together, avoiding the rancor of partisan politics, and that will continue to be the focus of my work as U.S. Senator going forward,” Manchin said in a statement today.
“The act of a deranged madman who commits a horrific act should not and cannot be confused with a metaphor about a piece of legislation. I have never targeted an individual, and I never would," he added. "This tragedy, I hope, serves as call for common sense, and wake-up call that we should all come together with common purpose to do what is best for our country.”
In his campaign ad below, Manchin -- touting his National Rifle Association endorsement -- shoots a bullet at the "cap and trade bill," as a symbolic rejection of the energy legislation being discussed by Democrats.
Since the shooting spree in Tucson Saturday, Sarah Palin and candidates who used gun references have come under fire from some liberals for provoking violence.
A number of candidates, including Sharron Angle of Nevada, used such imagery although Manchin is the only one who was elected into office.
UPDATE: In a conference call with reporters today, the newly minted senator expressed doubts about releasing the ad if he were campaigning today.
“I can’t say that we would. I really can’t," Manchin replied, when asked if given what has happened, he would release the same ad again today. "It is a much more sensitive thing that we are dealing with right now. With that I will say -- that was a metaphor. We were talking about a piece of legislation. You’re talking about an act of a crazed, deranged individual. I don’t think the two are related at all. But it would have made anybody more sensitive to that."
He pointed out that his new communications director, Emily Bittner, worked for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' campaign during her 2008 campaign.