Charlie Rangel's bizarre speech on the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday was a compelling piece of political theater. But for Democrats, it was just another reason to be pessimistic about the party's chances in November. Here's why Rangel's third-person stemwinder has the potential to be a game changer:

  • Momentum Stalled  Tuesday was supposed to be a good day for Democrats, writes Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. House Democratic leadership had scheduled a series of votes that "allowed Democrats to show support for teachers, cops and strong borders." Instead, says Milbank, "they got Rangeled." Rangel's speech effectively "trampled all over [Democrats'] plan to make the day about teachers and cops." The sheer strangeness of the speech, Milbank argues, managed to "crowd out any message the Democrats were hoping to deliver before voters punish them in the midterm elections."

  • Unseemly  The New York Post's editorial board took issue with "self-pitying" tone. "All that was missing was a violin," the paper sniffed. Rangel's unwillingness to acknowledge that he "brought this entire mess on himself" renders the entire Democratic caucus guilty by association.
  • Terrible Timing  Fox News's Andrea Tantaros says the speech came at the worst possible time for Democrats. "There couldn’t be a worse message when the country is disgusted with incumbent entitlement and power plays." In the most public way possible Rangel napalmed his reputation "with the Democratic caucus and with the country." Rangel's hubris, Tantaro argues, could spur voters from Rangel's district and beyond to reject incumbents and cast their ballots for "a leader who puts them first."
  • Where's the Outrage?  Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey doesn't think Democrats are doing enough to distance themselves from Rangel. "Only a select few Democrats have demanded his resignation," writes Morrissey. "At last count, the Footsteps Caucus amounted to a grand total of eight Democrats, which is about 3.2% of all House Democrats. None of them are in leadership positions, but all eight of them are facing tough re-election bids against energized Republicans."