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As portrait of Jared Loughner sharpens, 'vitriol' blame fades

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Arizona shooting suspect Jared Loughner: 5 of his strange ideas

A CBS poll Tuesday showed 57 percent of Americans don't believe political rancor played any role in the attack, with a plurality of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents agreeing.

Indeed, one piece of evidence collected so far is a 2007 letter from Giffords's office to Mr. Loughner, thanking him for attending a meet-and-greet event. On it is scrawled a death threat to Giffords. In 2007, Sarah Palin was a little-known Alaska governor and the tea party movement did not exist.

At this point, then, the left's initial eagerness to link the shooting to political anger on the right could backfire, says Charles Franklin, a pollster and political scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

"It was the immediate connection from the left of this shooting to political rhetoric from the right that polarized this, and here we have a case where there's a rush to blame Palin [and other conservatives] with no direct connection to her at all," he says. "And the more we learn about this guy, it seems there isn't any political motivation in a broader sense."

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