BRUSSELS, Oct 4 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s lacklustre performance in the first U.S. election debate provoked uneasiness in European capitals on Thursday, where hopes are mostly, if unofficially, pinned on his securing a second term.
While a lot can change before the Nov. 6 vote, and Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will go head to head twice more before then, polling conducted immediately after the debate showed Romney came out overwhelmingly on top.
A flash poll by CNN showed 67 percent of viewers thought Romney had ‘won’, with just 25 percent for Obama. Intrade, an online prediction market, cut Obama’s re-election prospects from 74 percent to 66 percent.
In Europe, where leaders and finance officials have worked closely with the Obama administration over the past 2-1/2 years trying to resolve the euro area debt crisis, there was particular consternation at Romney’s singling out of deficit-ridden Spain as a poorly administered economy.
In private, many EU diplomats have no qualms about saying they want Obama re-elected; it is no secret that many European countries, whether led by centre-left or centre-right governments, are more broadly aligned with the Democrats when it comes to social and tax policy, the environment and a range of foreign-affairs issues.
That is something Obama has sought to exploit in the past. In the run-up to a G8 meeting at Camp David in May, White House officials firmly pressed their European counterparts to rally behind Obama’s policy initiatives, according to those involved.