Part of Palin's political success owes to her knack for frontier imagery and provocative sound bites, as in the health-care debate when she tweeted after the bill had passed Congress, "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" But Palin is on the defensive at this moment because of her decision to make Giffords, who remains in critical condition after being shot in the head, one of 20 Democrats marked for defeat in the 2010 midterm elections.
Palin set up a Web site called "Take Back the 20," which included a map of the United States with cross hairs on congressional districts of Democratic candidates she had singled out for defeat.
The map drew immediate criticism. Among those who voiced disapproval was Giffords.
"We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is that the way she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district," Giffords told MSNBC at the time. "When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that action."
Sarah Palin's statement Wednesday in response to the Tucson shootings, in which she has found herself at the center of a debate over civility in political discourse, was crafted as both a defense of her own actions and a strike against her critics - but reaction to the statement was dominated by a fresh controversy over her use of the phrase "blood libel."