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|Whither Obama, the global president?|
|Tuesday, 23 October 2012 22:41|
The results of the US presidential election on 6 November will have an impact on the whole world. And if the world could vote, it would vote overwhelmingly for President Obama.
But as US Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, told an audience at the University of Toronto, the race for the White House is now "very close".
A BBC World Service opinion poll has found sharply higher overseas approval ratings for US President Barack Obama than Republican challenger Mitt Romney. An average of 50% favoured Mr Obama, with 9% for Mr Romney, in the survey of 21,797 people in 21 countries. Only Pakistan's respondents said they would prefer to see Mr Romney win November's election. France was the most strongly pro-Obama (72%).
President Obama received particularly strong support from Kenya (the birth place of his father) and Indonesia (his childhood residence). With Romney threatening to declare China a currency manipulator from day one, it is also not surprising that our Chinese friends also prefer Obama.
Ambassador David Jacobson, a former Special Assistant to the US President for Presidential Personnel, and corporate lawyer, is a man with fine political insight. In his talk at University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, he explained that the election game has changed.
Jacobson explained that in the months leading up to the first presidential debate, Romney did not seem like a "viable candidate" thanks to Obama's strong campaigning on Romney's weaknesses.
The "game-changer" was the first presidential debate where Obama put in a weak performance, and where Romney revealed himself to be a viable alternative. This shifted the mood and momentum. Now there is a choice. Obama saw a loss in popularity,and attention began to focus more strongly on the problems of the past four years, economy, jobs and Europe.
Obama bounced back in the second and third debates, with more aggressive performances. And while Obama may have won those debates, Romney did not lose his position as a viable alternative.
This was helped by Romney's move to the center and his agreement with Obama on many issues. He presented himself like someone who is not a warmonger, not a George Bush or Dick Cheney.
Jacobson took us through the numbers. Obama already has a solid 237 electoral college votes, and Romney 206. For the 8 undecided states, Obama seems to have the edge. While there will be some changes, the Democrats will likely retain their majority in the Senate and the Republicans in the House of Representatives.
But one week is a long time in politics, and the two weeks to the election even longer. What could further weaken Obama's position? There will be another jobs report on the Friday before the election (the previous one was relatively positive. There could always be a surprise foreign policy event. And then there could always be something else?
Jacobson was remarkably frank, and seemed surprised that the US Presidential race had changed so dramatically. It is now too close to call. He referred to the factor which may be the most important of all, that is momentum.
When the tide of sentiment shifts, public opinion can behave like a herd, and it can take a long while to shift back.
One thing that may, however, play in Obama's favor is a "CNN" effect. With CNN's need to be constantly selling new stories, it can help shift sentiment as it seeks to create a new angle of the news story.
In Canada, we are all awaiting the election with baited breath. The big differences between Obama and Romney are on the domestic economy, and ultimately the most important link between the US and Canada is through this.
BBC poll: Rest of world favours Obama, 22 October, 2012
AMBASSADOR JACOBSON DISCUSSES U.S. ELECTIONS AT THE MUNK SCHOOL, 23 October, 2012