Romney’s Brilliant Maneuver

Gov. Mitt Romney today pulled a bold move in the final debate with President Obama, opting for relatively limited verbal combat with his opponent while instead showcasing his knowledge of foreign affairs, adopting a presidential demeanor, and offering a sense of optimism for the future.

This strategy was the political equivalent of the Muhammed Ali Rope-a-Dope against George Foreman in the heavyweight boxing championship in 1974. Everyone expected a war, but Ali laid back on the ropes and let his bigger, stronger opponent pound away until Foreman was exhausted, and Ali knocked him out.

And I think Romney may have scored a knockout too.

Some commentators are suggesting Obama won because he scored more points. But I think such people are looking at this from within the paradigm of what they expected, and not what happened.

Everyone – including me – thought Romney would tear into Obama once again and engage in another slugfest, spending as much time as possible discussing the failures surrounding Benghazi. Instead, Romney completely walked away from Benghazi.

What Romney needed tonight was not to beat up on Obama – he had already proven he could do that – but to cast himself as a leader people will be comfortable having as their president.

He threw some jabs, but the knockout punch wasn’t delivered by fist, but by feint.

Romney stood tall while Obama appeared a little surly, eager to re-litigate domestic policy points that the two had already plowed through in two debates. By repeatedly demeaning Romney, Obama demeaned himself. The proverbial Martian visiting earth for the first time would have been convinced that Romney was the king the earthlings, not Obama.

The CNN post-debate snap poll gave Obama an edge, with 48 percent saying he won compared to 40 percent who thought Romney did. The poll as a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 point, a relatively large number.

But the impression that will linger through Election Day is that of the sunny guy to the left of the screen who seemed to have ideas about where to go and was interrupted repeatedly by the guy on the right who made lots of points but, in the end, had no new ideas, couldn’t defend his record the few times it was challenged, and seemed a little unlikable.

Keith Koffler


Award winning journalist Keith Koffler has 16 years of experience covering Washington. As a reporter for CongressDaily, National Journal magazine, and Roll Call, Keith wrote primarily from the White House, covering three presidents and learning as few have the intricacies of the West Wing and the behavior and motivations of its occupants. While mainly stationed at the White House, he also extensively covered Congress and Washington’s lobbyists.

Keith has also written for a variety of other publications, including Politico, The Daily Caller, and The London Observer. He currently writes regular opinion columns for Politico. He blogs at

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  • Thom McMorrow

    Romney is the better politician, Obama is the better president.

  • eyeclinic

    Wrong! That which is gratuitously asserted is gratuitously refuted…

  • scott

    @ thom. Beep beep beep. Your alarm clock is saying its time to wake up.

  • mtodd

    Any one who favors Obama and says they are christian is clearly, not…

  • John
  • eyeclinic

    See my reply below…I put it in the wrong spot.

  • Mike

    I am convinced that Romney will be our next President, and am already planning for my business to expand, new employees to be hired and a breath of fresh air to blow through the business community–not to mention avoid the carnage of O’s war on religion.

    Obama will forever be a study in incompetent style over substance. And God will bless America again after this four year nightmare is over.

  • Annmarie Pipa

    yes! I agree completely with you!

  • chaco

    I hope you can read the future brother. [ I’m always a bit hesitant when it comes to setting myself up for dissapointment.] I’m not expecting “Heaven on Earth” but a win for our side is really sweet to imagine. I really felt the Hope when Mitt alluded to returning to the days of “The Greatest generation”. I’m 55 and as I watch 60 s T.V. shows, I long for the days when we were closer as a country in regard to common morality. “Hope Springs Eternal”

  • MaryK

    It can be counted upon that this columnist and many of you are so deep into your own belly-buttons…er, opinions (politically speaking) that you will do anything to slant in your favor. You are probably the same people who declare you won the football game in spite of the ref’s bad call in the last 10 seconds causing your team to lose. In addition, some of you will never lose an opportunity to judge another person’s “salvation” based on their political opinions (or their vote), even though Scripture warns against judging. You can only see the splinter in another’s eye, while ignoring the beam in your own.
    While I weigh the issues carefully and see the good bad on both sides, I vote responsibly, and I will not be led or swayed by myopic one-issue people whose “political spin” is both predictable and judgmental. You claim you are pro-life – Wonderful! But life doesn’t end at birth, and the span of life is just as important – that means health-care, shelter, food, education, opportunity, freedom from tyanny and abuse…..
    The candidate who wins this election is POTUS for the next 4 years. No matter how much you want your choice to win – HE MAY NOT! The voters do their best, but we must deal with the rest. Stop boxing yourselves into a corner. The US has survived 200+ years – there have been good and bad presidents – yet the people are resilient. Thank God for that.

  • A vote for him is a vote for Mormon HEARSY

  • MaryK

    mtodd- Wow, now you are claiming to be an addition to the Trinity! You, along with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit can see into the hearts of every man or woman who votes for Obama, and consign them to the damned, forever lost. You must be a very holy person indeed to have such powers of discernment…[not]!

  • Molly

    The thing about being pro-life is that we don’t stop after the baby is born. Don’t you see in the Catholic Church that we care for so many in need whether they are Catholic or not? For example we volunteer at pregnancy centers. These centers donate supplies to moms who need them. Have you ever heard of St. Vincent dePaul where volunteers help with rent, paying bills, food, clothes to families in need? What about the food banks? Shelters? Catholic hospitals? Catholic schools to help students succeed? I can go on. So we care about all our brothers and sisters in need. So for me being pro-life is the issue because it encompasses everything I mentioned. For the judging part, go see a 40 days of life vigil. You will see people praying for the women, the Planned Parenthood employees, the babies, the families of all involved. Praying, helping, loving…..changing hearts and minds. For me when the future generation asks (like we do for World War 2 when the Jewish people were killed) what did you do to stop abortion? To stop the killing of the innocent unborn children? I want to say that I did my part by praying, volunteering, and voting. How about you?