Wikipedia offers a nice definition of the “rope-a-dope” boxing style:
The maneuver is most commonly associated with the match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, known as the Rumble in the Jungle. Foreman was considered by many observers to be the favored to win the fight due to his superior punching power. During the match Ali purposely angered Foreman, provoking the latter to attack and force him back on the ropes. At the time some observers thought that Ali was being horribly beaten and worried that they might see him get killed in the ring. Writer George Plimpton described Ali’s stance as like “a man leaning out his window trying to see something on his roof.” However, far from being brutalized, Ali was relatively protected from Foreman’s blows. Ironically, Ali’s preparation for the fight, which involved toughening himself up by allowing his sparring partners to pummel him, contributed to observers’ sense that Ali was outmatched. When Foreman became tired from the beating he was delivering, Ali regrouped and ended up winning the match.
Emphasis added to bring me to the 2012 presidential campaign. Barack Obama and the various outfits backing his campaign have spent tens, if not hundreds of millions, pummeling Mitt Romney, but instead of tiring themselves out with the attacks, they have desensitized the American people to their tired tropes.
So, by my (speculative) theory, the Romney team, knowing that they were at a cash disadvantage all summer, would just stand back and take the pummeling, then, certain there would be a large audience for the first debate, Romney would start punching back, presenting an image of a man at odds with the Obama attack ads, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for the old strategy to be effective: the people would be tired of the attacks and more ready to question their accuracy.
Now, maybe I’m wrong. Hugh Hewitt today alerts us to the Politico story by Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei on “the Romney rebellion.” which suggests there was a “family-led shake-up of the Romney team”, indicating a shift in strategy. “Perhaps”, Hugh offers
. . . it was this dramatic, or perhaps there was a plan to scale up Romney’s game as the early voting season neared. It desn’t matter. What matters is that when it mattered most –when the biggest audience was watching for the longest time, Romney brought his best game and Obama his worst. Those are the sorts of pressure-filled performances, both good and bad, that set a public’s mind, and once set, it isn’t easily changed.
RELATED: When I did a search for Rope-A-Dope, learned that I was not the first to use this term to describe Romney’s strategy.