By Bob Soltau
Rope-a-dope, made famous by boxer Muhamed Ali, makes the opponent overconfident, tires him out and makes him vulnerable to a fatal punch. The rope-a-dope theory explained in this article isn’t mine — the credit goes to Mike Leifheit, proprietor of Rockford’s Irish Rose Saloon.
I watched the first presidential debate Oct. 3 and thought for sure President Barack Obama would beat Mitt Romney. The last thing I expected was to see Romney beat Obama. I figured, “Here’s a guy who was top of his class at Harvard Law.” He was bound to beat Romney, although Romney’s not too bad of a debater himself.
It made me depressed to see Obama do so poorly. He’s too smart to be so awful in a debate. Obama looked down while Romney talked. Obama was dispirited in his responses, like he didn’t want to go though these explanations all over again. He didn’t look like he even wanted to be there.
What’s going on here? He’s way too smart and talented to be so bad as to blow the debate.
Well, Leifheit espoused the theory that Obama performed poorly on purpose. The theory goes that Obama felt he had enough of a lead so he could give the Republicans some false hope about winning the election. That would motivate the right-wing political action committees to stop moving funds into senate campaigns from the presidential campaign. Obama would rope-a-dope. It would explain why such a smart guy would perform so poorly. And, indeed, some of that has happened, and it looks increasingly likely the Senate will stay Democrat.
Also, the rope-a-dope theory says the president was peaking too early, so he had to tone the campaign down and peak in popularity right before the vote. But the president’s performance in the first debate allowed Romney to shift more to the middle regarding his “severe conservative policies.” It also allowed Romney to lie in the first debate without concern about being called out on it. These are dangers to the president’s campaign.
The rope-a-dope theory also predicts Obama would do much better in the second debate, which, of course, is just what happened. It was funny to watch Romney throw so many punches in the second debate without landing any. That’s rope-a-dope just like Joe Frazier and Ali. And it predicts Obama would beat Romney solidly in the third debate Oct. 22 (results of that debate not available at the time this column was written). That, too, could very well be the outcome.
I don’t subscribe to the rope-a-dope theory as a conscious Obama/David Axelrod strategy. But I think in practice it could be just what develops. It could provide Obama with more Democrats in Congress as the Republicans became cocky and overconfident and shifted their funds back to the presidential campaign. Obama could rope-a-dope Romney.
It could be just the ticket for a second Obama administration.
Bob Soltau is a resident of Roscoe, Ill.
Posted Oct. 31, 2012