In 1974, Muhammad Ali employed the “rope a dope” strategy to defeat George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle, the heavyweight title fight in which Ali recovered his championship.  The strategy called for Ali to cover up on the ropes and let Foreman punch until he got so arm-weary that Foreman couldn’t defend himself.  It took eight rounds for Ali to get Foreman exhausted, and he knocked Foreman out as soon as Foreman’s arms dropped.

Democrats now claim that they wanted to take September off and allow the GOP to get arm-weary, overspending and leaving themselves vulnerable to a late-round KO:

House Democrats have taken a page from Muhammad Ali and planned a rope-a-dope strategy for the midterm election, hoping it can save their majority.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) decided to let its Republican counterpart outspend it on political ads during the crucial month of September.

Now the DCCC has a big advantage in cash on hand to counterpunch Republican candidates in October. But will it be too late? TV time will become more expensive and the airwaves will be cluttered with third-party-funded advertising.

The problem with a rope-a-dope strategy is that you have to be Muhammad Ali to make it succeed (although you can also be Manny Pacquiao, too).  Otherwise, you run the risk of losing all the early rounds, just to find out that your opponent has just as much gas in the tank as you do.  And, in fact, that’s exactly what happened, according to Politico:

A long roster of House Democratic incumbents found themselves outraised by GOP challengers during the third quarter — the latest sign that cash is following Republican momentum just weeks from the midterms.

At least 40 Democrats took in less cash than their opponents — a list that ranges from vulnerable freshmen like Alabama’s Bobby Bright, Mississippi’s Travis Childers, and Nevada’s Dina Titus to more senior members like Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Republican challenger outraised her by more than 3-to-1, taking in more than $1.1 million over the past three months. John Dennis, the Ron Paul-backed GOP nominee running against Pelosi in her liberal San Francisco-based district, raised roughly five times as much as he collected in the previous quarter, tapping into resentment against the leader of the Democratic majority in the House.

The development comes at a time when GOP outside groups are already far outspending Democratic-aligned organizations. This week, the Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads and a collection of affiliated Republican-friendly organizations announced they would spend more than $50 million on TV ads slamming House Democrats. The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, has announced that it plans to expand its TV ad campaign to $50 million as it attempts to expand the number of Democratic targets.

That isn’t just limited to the House, either:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee may have posted a record fundraising quarter that lapped its Republican rivals, but in the field, it’s a complete reversal of fortune.

Republican Senate candidates entered the final month of the campaign with at least $16 million more to spend than their Democratic opponents, according to a POLITICO review of campaign finance data in the top 20 Senate races.

GOP-ers in these marquee contests had more than $50 million left in the bank to spend entering the month of October, compared with the combined $33.6 million for their Democratic opponents.

The suggestion that taking September was an offense-driven strategic decision is laughable on its face.  The DCCC, and Democrats in general, had to consider how to make the best use of their limited amount of funds.  If they had the means, they would have engaged all through September and October.  They needed to do triage, which is why they have cut some incumbents loose and pulled ads from their markets.  It’s a defensive, not offensive, strategy.

It’s not a bad decision, even if driven by necessity.  October is a more critical month than September, although giving that month to the GOP has put them far behind on points in this bout.  They’ll need about sixty knockouts in the final two rounds, and right now, it looks as though the GOP has its hands up and is still pressing the attack while Democrats remain on the ropes.  The Democrats look a lot more like Randall “Tex” Cobb than Muhammad Ali.