Last week my Atlantic colleague Bob Wright said he was expecting an imminent swerve in the narrative about Romney's prospects, not because of any actual developments but because the media couldn't tolerate an unchanging story. I got a preview of his post last week when visiting Princeton, where Bob lives. According to tradition, he said, this deviation would need three elements. As I recall he had only two when we spoke but his post the next day went one better and offered four: Romney's previously undiscovered sense of humor (check); foreign-policy switcheroo (in progress); Obama loses his mojo (check); and Romney's surprising talent as a debater (check).
Obama was genuinely awful in the debate, even measured against Bob's unusually rigorous pre-debate assessment -- "not a deft off-the-cuff speaker ... about average as recent presidents go ... not a great debater." In other words, there was an actual development. Nonetheless, I'd say Bob made a pretty good prediction.
I bring this up because, searching for the required third point to justify the swerve, I suggested this: "Romney's tactical brilliance in running such a pitiful campaign until barely a month before the election." I meant it as a joke ... but now I'm wondering. Part of Matt Miller's (very good) post-debate column on "The Audacity of Romney" jumped out at me.
If he wins, of course, Romney and his advisers will be hailed as geniuses for their timing, for bonding the party faithful to the ticket with the choice of Paul Ryan and a conservative-themed convention, and then dashing to the center for the home stretch.
That's true: If Romney wins, that's exactly what we'll say. But what I find myself wondering is whether, in that still unlikely event, the "geniuses for their timing" narrative might actually be correct. My grasp of American vernacular still isn't all it might be, but I think you call this "rope-a-dope" -- with Obama as the dope.