Mohamed Alli made the rope-a-dope (RAD) strategy famous by using it successfully against George Foreman and Joe Frazier. It consisted of leaning on the rope (and on the opponents) and covering the head and letting the opponent hit his arms and abdomen until they were exhausted and then Ali would take them out. (don't try this at home as it doesn't work that well for most other boxers).
More generally it has referred to a strategy whereby you make your enemies think you are losing and you are really not.
On to the public option. Many opponents believe that adoption of a public option will be the slippery road to government run health care and the single payer. We are seeing that the public option may not pass and that democrats are supposed to be fighting over it (the Republicans' dismal performance in the last election effectively disarmed them) and if it fails the country will be saved from government run health care. The inclusion of compulsory health insurance in all of the current bills already means government health care regardless of the outcome of the public option.
I maintain that adoption of employer and individual mandates and subsidies will constitute government medicine. Read Michael Cannon's essay on mandates (see here ) and the power implicit in the control over what type health insurance everyone must have and then see if you think the public option "controversy" really matters.
Maybe the public option contrived ruckus would be better characterized as Arnold Kling did :
... the debate over the "public option" in health reform also can be viewed as an exercise in symbolic politics and diversion. The point is to divert attention away from the bankruptcy of Medicare. (see here for his entire commentary)
And I would add diversion away from the mandates.