The origin of the "Rope-a-Dope" was the successful boxing technique employed by Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali, when he knocked out his bigger and stronger opponent George Foreman to regain his title during their 1974 match. In that fight Mr. Ali was literally beaten for the first four rounds, before rallying, taking charge and then knocking out his opponent in the eighth round.
Many supporters of President Barack Obama suggested after his anemic performance in his first debate with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that Obama's showing was part of his "Rope-a-Dope" scheme. At least they hope it was.
Going into the debate Oct. 3, the president enjoyed across-the-board leads both in national public opinion polls, and in polls in key Electoral College battleground states and Gov. Romney needed a proverbial "knock-out" of the incumbent in order to revive his failing chances for victory on Nov. 6. Using tricks and lies, and stage presence, Romney didn't get a clear knock out per se, but he seemed to get what he needed.
The Rasmussen poll found an approval "bounce" for Romney after the debate. Their tracking poll of the national race, released Oct. 6, showed Romney with 49 percent to Obama's 47 percent, a reverse from just one day earlier.
"These U.S. presidential elections are in part an exercise in psychological warfare," Dr. Gerald Horne, professor of history at the University of Houston told me. "There are countless voters in this country who have not [made up their minds as to who they're going to vote for or vote against], in part because they look at elections like sports. They want to be on the winning team."
"Political operatives see it as their mission to create this psychological atmosphere that makes it seem as if their candidate has momentum. I think that the Romney team and the Republican Party operatives did a masterful job in terms of creating this impression that Romney has triumphed in this debate, although if you look at a lot of what he said with a close eye, there are a number of misstatements, there are a number of evasions, some might even say outright prevarications," said Dr. Horne.
Many of Obama's supporters expressed surprise, even disappointment that he never mentioned several of the Republican's glaring weaknesses, including his record at the private equity firm Bain Capital, his vast personal wealth and offshore investments, and most especially his remark that 47 percent of Americans are government dependents who support the president's welfare-state-like policies and who are unwilling to even attempt to take "personal responsibility" for their own lives.
"The president missed an incredible opportunity to 'close the deal' as far as the American voters are concerned," Dr. Wilmer Leon, assistant professor of political science at Howard University told me. "This was, by many accounts, gonna be Romney's last stand, his opportunity to re-re-re-start his campaign, and unfortunately the president allowed him to do it."
"Romney did bring his 'A-game,' for as good as Romney's game could be. The president allowed Romney to lie repeatedly, [and] did not forcefully challenge a lot of the assertions that Romney was making that have repeatedly been proven to be false," Dr. Leon said.
Some said that Obama was intentionally deferential to Romney out of concern that he might otherwise come off as an "angry black man."
"Within a certain segment of the U.S. population, there were those who were willing, and were hungry, for this idea that Mr. Obama would be put in his place, and of course I'm choosing my words carefully, because I do think there was a kind of antebellum overtone to that kind of notion," Dr. Horne said of the debate.
"Obama always has to walk a tightrope. If you look at recent history, you may recall that one of his calling cards as he was being catapulted into prominence as a national figure, was that he was a Black man who was slow to anger, who was not aggressive in the way that Black men are perceived to be aggressive, and that he has created this persona of likeability which in the end I think, will serve him well."
"So, I would imagine that Mr. Obama's handlers are quite sensitive to this perception of being overly aggressive against Mr. Romney's charges, but I would imagine that in this second and third debate that Mr. Obama is going to re-calibrate because the publicity has been so negative with regard to his performance ... that it's going to force a change in how he approaches these upcoming debates, and he's going to probably risk his likeability quotient in order to challenge Mr. Romney's evasions and misstatements and prevarications," Dr. Horne said.
That would be "Rope-a-Dope" parts two and three ... maybe.