Rangel’s Slip Up?

Facing an antagonistic electorate and the strong possibility of losing the House, Republicans are desperately trying to motivate their base by propping Charlie Rangel up as its mid-term bogeyman. That only works if Rangel plays the part.

For a while, he was excrutiatingly careful not to take the bait. This week, he kind of blew it, calling Vice President Dick Cheney, his frequent sparring partner, a “son of a bitch.

“It doesn’t help the cause,” said Amy Walter, who follows the House races for the Cook Political Report. “What Democrats really need to do is make sure the focus and spotlight remains on Republicans period. If you are making a change argument, you only hurt yourself when you get involved in part of the debate.”

Rangel’s outburst has played right into the Republican gameplan – even though Cheney is not exacty a stranger to foul language. Rangel, achingly close to landing the dream job as chairman of the Ways and Means committee that would be the culmination of his political career, has apparently realized that he made a mistake and even expressed some unusual contrition.

But Walter doubts it will make much of a difference to the Democrats chances of taking the House, as Republicans have already pulled out every stop to get their base to the polls.

“They have already thrown in the whole kitchen sink,” said Walter, “and it has not been able to get the kind of traction that Republicans would have hoped it would.”

–Jason Horowitz