They "sorry" is the most difficult word to say . . . unless you're a politician (where acknowledgement of mistakes is more rare than signs of extraterrestial life on Mars). For example, suppose that your campaign "targets" specific Congressional seats using an image akin to a sniper sight's cross hairs. Suppose further that one of the candidate's whose seat you have targetted makes public her concern that potentially tragic "consequences" might follow such dangerous tactics. Now suppose yet further this candidate is then the target of an assassination attempt at her first major public event after being sworn in to a seat won in a narrow re-election.
What would you do? Many of us might be horrified. We would remove the image and issue a clear apology vowing to take a lead in raising the tone and civility of the wider political debate: violent images/rhetoric will be condemened whether or not it specifically played any role in the particular incident.
This would make sense. The political costs would be more manageable. Those who are already unfavourable would be unlikely to increase and some may be won over post-humble apology. Few think worse of those who swiftly apologize for the right reasons. (We often do think worse of those who take too long to say sorry or who do so for the wrong reasons or motives.)
What would not make sense is to fight back and deny that you would do anything different, and certainly not apologize. This is the unwise political strategy of Sarah Palin. Ugh. Her problems include situations like hardened unfavourable ratings -- and strong unfavourability amongst even many Republicans. Her decision may well please her small, loyal base, but it will do nothing to increase the base....and may be likely to turn some off who would otherwise have a favourable view.
Palin's standing by her image -- which, of course, she removed immediately and has not put on her websites -- is as bad a decision as the decision by Michael Dukakis's campaign to publish photos of him in a tank. If Palin has truly done nothing wrong, then why attempt to hide the image targetting seats? If she made an error of judgement, she could still claim no responsibility while making the small (but important) concession that her image was the wrong one and she'd take a lead to improve civility. This would not lose her support amongst those already loyal and would be very likely to help improve her image.
The fact she time and time again fails to make good political judgements like this is yet more reason why Sarah Palin's political future post-Tucson looks very poor. Do not expect her to run for US President in 2012.