Romney’s Flawed Rope a Dope Strategy

Joe Kernen put it best on CNBC Tuesday morning. Describing the difficulties of getting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to appear on Squawk Box, he likened Team Romney’s approach to the “rope a dope” strategy adopted by boxing legend Muhammad Ali in his famous 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” match against George Foreman in Zaire.

During that match, Ali allowed Foreman to hit him repeatedly while Ali leaned against the ropes, letting the ropes’ elasticity absorb the brunt of his opponent’s punishing blows. Then, Ali methodically finished off a tired, much-weakened Foreman.

Similarly, Romney has avoided the media, not giving a major interview this year until he agreed to sit down with Fox News’ Bret Baier, which turned out to be a disaster.

Romney has two problems. First, he’s been a serial flip flopper, and good interviewers can easily expose his contradictory positions.

Second, Romney hasn’t handled those questions well.  His thin-skinned responses to Baier’s questions and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s repeated jibes about the Massachusetts health care plan were just awful.

By contrast, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has a much more illustrious record of flip flopping and hypocrisy than Romney does. Yet the current Republican front runner simply has no shame, so he deflects those questions easily, often throwing them back at whoever has the gall to challenge him.

Only Bob Schieffer’s surprise inquiry about Gingrich’s wife’s $500,000 credit line at Tiffany a few months ago seemed to fluster him.


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Photo: Gage Skidmore.


Yet Gingrich’s onslaught now puts Romney’s strategy in jeopardy. Far from inevitable, Romney’s candidacy is newly vulnerable. He has to get out of his cocoon, do more interviews, and live with the consequences. His interview scheduled with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this week will be critical.

Maybe Romney will discover some real passion about an issue and go where the polls say he shouldn’t. Maybe he’ll actually challenge the out-of-control anger of the Republican base and explain why it’s more important to win than to vent.

In short, he has to take more risks. If he really wants to be president, Mitt Romney needs to get off the ropes and come out swinging.

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