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Politics & press – Embassy 12 – October 2008

Envoys back Barack

Barack Obama has swept the boards as the London diplomatic corps’ choice for the next US President.

As one Embassy reader put it: “I think the race is over – with the skinny guy with the funny name coming in first.”

Unlike the American electoral race – which puts the Democratic presidential candidate ahead but remains too close to call – Obama won by a landslide at the Court of St James’s, attracting a majority of the vote in every policy area included in the Embassy survey.

In particular, Obama fared best when it came to promoting international security, combating climate change and shoring up the flagging US economy, where 91% said he would make a better president.

Nearly 87% said he would be the candidate to bring world trade talks to a successful conclusion and the same proportion said he would be a better partner to EU and Nato allies.

However, Obama’s convincing lead was dented by Senator John McCain in four crucial foreign policy areas. Over one quarter (27%) said McCain had the better policy on Iraq; 23% said he had better ideas for bringing about a peaceful Afghanistan; and just under one-fifth (18%) said McCain’s policies on the thorny issue of Iran would be more effective.

Interestingly, almost a fifth of Embassy respondents, a number from poor countries, said McCain was more committed to assisting the developing world – perhaps an allusion to his less protectionist approach to world trade talks.

Also noteworthy is the lack of faith envoys showed in either candidate in resolving the conflict in Israel-Palestine with nearly a quarter (23%) saying neither candidate inspired confidence.

However, before reading too much into the results, Embassy must issue a caveat. Unlike the US elections, where voter turnout is predicted to break all records, participation in this Embassy Barometer was lower than normal – not for lack of interest, though.

Scores of Embassy readers wrote in to say they were abstaining from offering an opinion because ultimately the decision lay with the American voting public.

One European Ambassador wrote in to plead indecision – Republican policy had been good for their region, but globally Obama would probably be a better choice. He added it was hard to make an informed choice based on the oracles of television networks.

There are a good many undecided ‘Obamacons’ in the diplomatic corps, who, like Colin Powell, claim to be ideologically conservative at heart, but find themselves drawn to Obama – or repelled by McCain’s vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, the moose-hunting hockey mom Governor of Alaska.

As one diplomat said recently at a reception: “I have quite a lot of time for McCain, but the prospect of Sarah Palin being second in command is frankly scary. Let’s not forget, McCain is not a young man.”

In the end, the views of envoys in London matter little in battleground states of Florida and Ohio where the election will be won or lost. As one Ambassador put it: “We will simply have to deal with whoever we get.”

back

In responding to our survey, one
Embassy reader put it this way: “I
think the race is over – with the
skinny guy with the funny name
coming in first”

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