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Romney 1, Obama 0 or How Not to Execute the Rope-A-Dope Strategy

October 4, 2012

As I was watching the presidential debate last night, I was reminded of the Rope-A-Dope strategy where a boxer allows the ropes to absorb his opponent’s punches by swaying into the ropes when the glove contacts.  It appears as if the boxer is outmatched as he receives blow after blow.  It can work as The Greatest showed us in 1974 , but only if the opponent (1) tires and (2) allows an opening for a counter-attack.  It certainly will fail if the Rope-A-Doper himself doesn’t bring any firepower to the fight.  The President’s strategy failed miserably on all counts.  Sure the President was standing at the end, but the Governor was standing taller.

Not only did the Governor not tire, he grew in stature and conviction.  One of his best rhetorical moments came just before closing statements when he pointed to the words of our Constitution and Declaration to answer what the role of the Federal government was.  I don’t mean rhetorical simply in the sense of technique but in the sense of heartfelt persuasion, and he could not have been persuasive if he did not have conviction.  His deft answer regarding the use of Romneycare as a model for the nation was proof of that.  The President and his Democratic enablers took the Governor’s statement as an endorsement of the Federal behemoth they created.  No, said the Governor.  The Constitution means what is says in the 10th Amendment and yes, I am proud of Romneycare, but only as a model for what each State can do in its own circumstances, not as a many-headed mandate which ultimately eliminates choice of healthcare and empowers an unelected body to decide what is the correct treatment for each individual citizen.  (He could have easily added, except for those who ingratiated themselves with the White House and received a waiver.)   His punches never tired because it strikes me his energy came from the deep love of his country and no amount of misinformation or posturing about what he said or wrote during the debate could overcome that.

Having never tired, the Governor did not provide any opening for a counter-punch.  But neither did the President create one.  He was remarkably deferential and at times not even looking at the Governor but away to the moderator or the audience.  You cannot take advantage of an opening without engaging your opponent because you will not recognize those openings.  One of the Governor’s more powerful statements, which I am sure resonated with many undecided voters, was his plan for getting the country back on the right track financially and he persuasively referenced his extensive business experience in doing just that.  For a moment one got an impression of what it was like to have Romney as the executive in your company, reducing unneeded expenses, focusing on what works right in a company, and encouraging all to work from their strengths.  Up until the debate the standard response by Obama and his surrogates has been to demonize Bain as a vulture capitalist company.  Not a peep from the President on that theme.

Finally, where there is nothing left in the tank, the Rope-A-Doper will simply fail to execute.  Ali rigorously prepared for his fight by letting his sparring partners pound his body repeatedly.  He then was able to take 8 rounds of punishment from the massive blows of Foreman, then when Foreman had spent himself on the conditioned Ali, Ali rebounded and won the fight.  Sure the President prepared through mock debates, but when was the last time he had a real sparring contest?  His press conferences are few and far between.  He goes mostly unchallenged in the conferences he does hold.  The debates of 2008 are long in the past, and the passion for the change Obama promised and embraced has seemingly fled him.  Mayor Guiliani remarked after the debate that he had a press conference everyday during his tenure and that these were often brutal events for him.  As a result, the Mayor is no slouch when it comes to verbal jousts.   Our Governor, in her usual inimitable fashion, pointed out the same noting along the way that “his buddy the teleprompter” was absent.  The President did engage Romney at times, but true to the strategy he had adopted, there was nothing quite passionate or lasting about those engagements.  Incredibly, the one clever turn he offered backfired. Romney was rightly touting his own ability to work in a bipartisan fashion when 87% of the Massachusetts legislature was Democrat.  Romney also rightly criticized the President for his complete exclusion of Republicans from the healthcare debate.  The President responded by stating he would take good ideas wherever they came from and that he wished the Massachusetts Democrats Romney worked with had come to Washington to teach the Republicans how to cooperate.  His attempt at cleverness drew the largest guffaws from the Knights.  This coming from the President, House Speaker and Senator Majority Leader who happily shut the Republicans out of negotiations.,,

Verdict:  Romney 1, Obama 0.

Who knows what the next debate will bring, but we do know for sure that the Governor will be prepared and capable and the President will not be able to bring anything near the excitement he did for the 2008 campaign.  The real question is: what will he bring?  It is unlikely it will be a repeat of the same defensive strategy which liberals are spinning now as being much harder to play.  The liberal supporters are trying to contain the fallout by noting that it is always hard to play defense.   Acidic attacks on Romney?  Charm?  Appeals to his accomplishments?  The next debate is a town hall setting in which foreign and domestic policy will be discussed.  David Axelrod has already said that the President is looking forward to the debate and that it will be “really interesting.”  We agree.  It will be really interesting seeing how the President explains Fast and Furious, the deaths of our citizens in Libya, the crumbling of the Arab Spring, and a host of other foreign policy debacles.

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