Europeans are watching the final stages of the U.S. election campaign closely, concerned about how the outcome might affect global issues. Europeans can’t vote in the U.S. election, but, like people everywhere, they have a stake in its outcome.
From economic issues to Iran and the war in Afghanistan, the future of Europe is very much linked to the United States. And the two men who are vying to lead it for the next four years would seem to have very different views of the continent.
“I think the president wants to turn us into a European-style welfare state, an entitlement nation. That model has not worked anywhere in the world,” Mitt Romney said on the campaign trail.
Barack Obama usually strikes a different tenor when he talks about the continent.
“Each step points to the fact that Europe is moving towards further integration rather than breakup and that these problems can be resolved, and points to the underlying strength in Europe’s economies,” said Obama at the G20 summit last June.
Senior fellow Xenia Dormandy of London’s Chatham House says that difference in tone has been noticed on this side of the Atlantic.
“Romney talks about a strong, exceptional America, a leading America. And he talks about increasing defense spending. All of those things are things that make Europeans a little bit nervous,” noted Ms. Dormandy. “Contrarily, Obama, I call him a European leader. He’s very consensus-driven. He’s wanting to work in multilateral institutions, wanting to collaborate. All of these things play very, very well in the European setting.”
And that is part of the reason that polls indicate Europeans prefer President Obama by 75 percent or more over former governor Romney. And Ms. Dormandy says those views have a practical impact.
“That really matters,” Ms. Dormandy added. “It will give freedom to the European leaders to work with Obama in a way that they won’t have with Romney.”
She says that is true even though their foreign policies will likely not really be very different.
And James Boys of King’s College says that is true even on issues where Romney has spoken in strong terms, including Iran, Russia and China.
“It’s easy to say, ‘I will do things differently.’ History has revealed that there is a great difference between what is said on the campaign, when people advocate change, and a sense of continuity once people arrive in office,” said Boys. “The election has put a pause on the future direction of U.S. foreign policy. And I think many of us here in Europe are anxious to see what transpires in the new year under a new administration, be it headed by Romney or Obama.”
The U.S. election will be decided Tuesday night while most Europeans are sleeping. Wednesday morning they’ll either face a familiar and largely compatible figure, or a new and mostly unknown one, whose rhetoric has caused some initial concerns.