For those of you who weren't even born yet and/or are not boxing fans, here's what the Rope-a-Dope strategy was.
George Foreman--yes, that George Foreman--was the 24-yr-old reigning heavyweight champion of the world. He about 6'5", 225 lbs of the meanest strongest most powerful puncher on the planet. Along came 30-something Muhammad Ali: past his prime, still in great shape, but nowhere as intimidating a figure as Foreman.
The two were paired in a Championship fight, with Foreman the heavy favorite. It was simple thought the experts: Ali could not match the awesome power of Foreman's devastating attack.
Early in the fight Ali found himself pinned on the ropes, covering his head with his gloves and his mid-section with his forearms while Foreman threw vicious punch after punch at the sitting suck Ali. But the punches did not land on Ali's chin, they were deflected by his defense and landed on shoulders, arms, sides, gloves. With 30 seconds or so to go in the round, Ali would suddenly spring from the ropes and launch his own attack against an arm-weary Foreman.
This went on for 8 rounds, I think. By the last 30 seconds of round 8, Foreman being completely exhausted by his continuous punching let his hands drop and Ali caught him flush on the chin with a powerful right-cross. The man who had never been knocked off his feet during his entire career, was knocked-out, for the count of 10. Ali regained the Championship against all the odds.
In the current Championship fight, we have one fighter who has a pronounced tendency toward self-inflicted wounds. The more he speaks, the more cuts and bruises he comes away with. As with Foreman, he's his own worst enemy.
I am suggesting O merely lay back on the ropes, mute, absorbing blow after blow from McCain? Certainly not.
I am suggesting that Barack need not match his opponent punch for punch. The Clark Affair is a good example. The wild, undisciplined knock-out punches Clark tried to deliver not only missed the target, but actually resulted in the paradoxical response of sympathy for McCain (the veracity of Clark's comments are immaterial to their results.)
Let McCain rant; let him rave; let him throw those wild hooks from left field like Foreman did. Just don't let him catch O on the chin. And Barack's gotta keep jabbing away, slipping punches, waiting for just the right moment--like Ali--and deliver the knock-out blow to a battle weary, dazed opponent when the moment is right.
And Barack Obama--like Ali--will sense that moment without the need from any political consultant.
[Note: Decades later, the Foreman we all know today was asked his opinion of the Rope-a-Dope strategy used against him. His short reply: "I was the Dope.]