Is Obama employing ‘rope-a-dope’ debate strategy? He just may be, WUSTL expert says​

Two debates, three weeks. There’s not a whole lot of time or opportunity for the presidential candidates to reach undecided voters, adding weight to tomorrow’s debate.

And as we’ve seen in the last two debates, it’s not so much what is being said as how the message is being delivered. That’s why President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney have a crucial meeting tomorrow night and experts at Washington University in St. Louis are ready to comment.

Henry I. Schvey, PhD, a noted author and expert on theater, says the nonverbal has become more important than what is being said. Schvey likens the debates to a heavyweight bout; he looks for Romney to become even more assertive in tone — and thinks Obama will let him.

“Obama’s strategy is almost Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope,” Schvey says. “I think he’s going to allow Romney to be so aggressive in the next debates that (Romney) may end up hurting himself. That’s one possible direction that this could take.”

Schvey also says to check the camera angles, the ones that allow for split screens that show reactions and open the door for judgments about the candidates’ composure. “The way the debate is being filmed has become extremely important,” he says.

Other WUSTL experts who can comment on tomorrow’s debate:

  • Wayne Fields, PhD, a nationally known expert on American political arguments.
  • Peter Kastor, PhD, professor of history, who has taught courses on the presidency, ranging from freshman programs to senior seminars.

A complete list of election experts is available at

WUSTL also has free VYVX/ISDN lines available for media use.