With the U.S. presidential election now closer than ever, the press is brimming with speculation about whether Barack Obama, after turning in a lackluster performance in the first debate, can reverse Mitt Romney's momentum during his second outing tonight. And not just the U.S. media. News outlets from India to Israel are busy dissecting Obama's setback, Romney's comeback, and what the new state of play in the race means for their countries. Here's a snapshot of some of the most colorful coverage in recent days:
The British press has at times been rather brutal in assessing the shifting dynamics in the presidential race (sample Daily Mail headline this week: "Preparing for a new job already?
Obama delivers pizzas to campaign workers as he gets ready for make-or-break TV
debate at golf resort"). But commentators have also speculated about what a Romney win would mean for Britain. Over at the Telegraph, Tim Stanley argues that David Cameron and his Conservative Party have expressed their preference for Obama too openly. "By airing these views in public
the Tories have gambled too much on Obama winning the election," he maintains. "And if he
doesn't, then they'll have a President on their hands who they have routinely
insulted. That can't be good for the Atlantic alliance." (Stanley, for the record, thinks tonight's debate will end in a draw or Romney win.)
Meanwhile, Sir Christopher Meyer, a former British ambassador to the United States, writes in the London Evening Standard that an Obama victory would be best for Britain:
Romney could turn out to be an
excellent foreign policy president, yet right now, his foreign policy team is
split between neo-con hawks and those of a more pragmatic, "realist" world
view, similar to our own. We don't know which faction will come out on top. In
the circumstances, we're better off with the devil we know - and that's Obama.
The state-run news agency Xinhua
has a warning today for the presidential candidates: "[I]t would be both
politically shortsighted and detrimental to China-US relations if they
turned the town-hall-style meeting into a China-bashing competition"
(the news outlet appears to be confusing tonight's debate with the third
and final debate on foreign policy, which will touch on topics
such as "the rise of China and tomorrow's world"). Sure, both
candidates' tough talk on China may be nothing more than campaign
bluster, Xinhua observes. But "these
chameleonic politicians should not always expect that the wounds they
to the China-US ties would heal automatically" once they assume office.
In an article on the possibility that India could be dealing with several new world leaders in a matter of months, the Times of India
marvels that "from
being a candidate who could barely control his own Republican Party,
Romney has surged forward to be a surprisingly competent debater and a
than credible opponent." Still, the paper adds, the outcome of the
U.S. election may not have a major impact on bilateral relations. "The
Indo-US relationship has now become institutionalized and isn't actually
dependent on a president," the article notes.
In a debate preview at the Hindustan Times,
the U.S.-based journalist Rashmee Roshan Lall argues that Romney is
unlikely to endear himself to India or the world during Tuesday night's
event. True, she notes, the
"New Delhi punditocracy has always thought Republican presidents suit
better than Democratic ones." But Romney doesn't mention India on the
campaign trail and wants to "reinstate the US as globocop, albeit with a
borrows heavily from some of the darker manifestations of Lord
Voldemort." She concludes with a question: "Is
it better to be steamrollered or simply ignored or might the best option
and everyone else be four more years of Obama?"
As the U.S. race has tightened -- "The presidential race has begun anew," one Israel Hayom headline proclaims -- the editorial boards at Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post have published explanations for why they'll be remaining neutral during the election. Haaretz
notes, in rather vivid language, that "Romney would stick with
Israel's prime minister and they would become flesh of one flesh" but
adds that the substantive differences between the candidates are minor.
columnist Chemi Shalev, meanwhile, muses about the various leadership
permutations that could result from elections in Israel and the United
As for the upcoming debate, Israel Hayom's Abraham Ben-Avi thinks it is "Obama's last window of opportunity to rehabilitate his status as a leader" while Haaretz's
Adar Primor argues that the world will still favor Obama over Romney
even if the candidates sharpen the distinctions between them on foreign
policy tonight. "Those [around the world] who have shaken off
their Obama fixation have done so largely because in certain areas of
is seen as having adopted the Republican agenda," Primor writes.
Russia's RT didn't buy the widespread verdict that Romney trounced Obama in the first debate, noting that the "tepid" forum had shown the candidates to be "two sides of the same coin." But Romney's post-debate bounce has spurred the Russian press to give the GOP candidate a closer look. News outlets covered Romney's Russia comments during his recent foreign-policy address in Virginia but cautioned against reading too much into the aggressive rhetoric (the state-run Voice of Russia did note that "a serious politician should avoid
making that kind of remarks with respect to another leading country"). One Russian lawmaker, meanwhile, accused Romney of embracing George W. Bush's failed policies and presiding over the "last convulsion of the American-style world."
In the most creative commentary, the Voice of Russia compares the debates to chess matches and quotes the chess player Vladislav Tkachev:
"Very often the real
moves, such as the candidate's plan of actions and package of reforms, remain
in the background and the psychological factor comes to the fore. Suffice it to
look at the footage of the confrontation between Karpov and Kasparov to see
that the duel of the eyes, a springy step and an overall aggressive look were
of paramount importance. It is common knowledge how difficult it is to give the
right answer when exposed to the rival's glare. The response of the audience
can also either pep one up or completely demoralize. Barack Obama with downcast
eyes did not look his best this time, side by side with his opponent who
However, there are more
debates ahead and the results could change. After all, Obama is leading in
public opinion polls. The main thing for him now is to get rid of the image of
a serious, thoughtful and humane but not very determined leader because this is
the wrong style for the time of change. However, chess practice shows that the
style of playing games cannot change overnight.
The German press has adopted the Mitt-mentum narrative -- as U.S.-based journalist Gregor Peter Schmitz wrote in Der Spiegel, Joe Biden's vice presidential debate performance "almost
single-handedly revived the Obama campaign, which was in danger of being put on
life support after the president's disastrous debate performance in Denver." But news outlets have also pointed out that the race would look very different if it were held in Germany (or many other European countries, for that matter), where more than eight in ten people would support the Democrats. "Obama has assured victory -- among Germans," a headline in Die Welt declares (an article in Berliner Morgenpost suggests that Obama's overwhelming popularity in the country helps explain why Romney didn't visit Germany during his overseas trip this summer).
The Pakistani press has covered the narrowing race. "Even
the New York Times, which favours Mr Obama, concedes that Mr Romney has
continued to surge since the debate," an article in Dawn observes. But in an op-ed
for the same newspaper, Muhammad Ali Siddiqi argues that the weeks
since the first debate have shown Obama to be the true victor. "Mr
Obama was consistent, without flamboyance, and stood his ground" while
played to the gallery," Siddiqi notes. He adds that "Mr
Romney would like to conduct his foreign policy in Cold War fashion"
but admits that, contrary to the impression in Pakistan, foreign policy
has "taken a back seat in the
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