Mitt the Twit? – Romney Not a Popular Prospect in Europe

Hannah Godfrey

Europeans have strong concerns over the possibility of Mitt Romney being elected in November. A recent poll by YouGov has revealed that many Europeans’ opinions of the US would plummet to Bush-era levels if President Obama loses the White House this year. 47 percent of people surveyed in the UK said that their opinion of America would worsen, while only three percent said their view of America would become more favorable if Romney is elected later this year. Similar figures emerged from Germany and France.

Romney’s European tour earlier this summer revealed a significant weakness in his campaign, which, if not quite comparable to Sarah Palin’s infamous comments of the 2008 campaign, raises some serious questions over his people skills. For example, just days before the Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics he appeared to question London’s level of preparation and Britain’s commitment to the games. Needless to say, this did not go down well among my fellow Britons, prompting rebuttals from the Prime Minister and London Mayor, Boris Johnson.

The Republican Party as a whole does not have a good reputation in the UK, where politics is pretty centrist and where ‘moderate’ is certainly not a dirty word. The Republicans are frequently portrayed as a little bit crazy if not dangerously extreme. Needless to say, most Republicans are clearly entirely sane; nevertheless, Romney’s attempts to appeal to a more conservative Republican base through support for anti-abortion initiatives and his VP pick of Paul Ryan will not help many Britons’ views of him as worryingly right-wing.  Similarly, the Republicans’ antipathy towards gun control and firm opposition to Obama’s healthcare policies do not sit well with the majority of British people, where the National Health Service is a source of great pride, as evidenced in Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony.

While the opinions of European voters do not count for much within American political circles, the possibility of Romney’s victory in November does raise some questions about his potential foreign policy. European leaders want to keep voters on-side, particularly at a time of unprecedented economic crisis, and they may choose, therefore, to distance themselves from the new American leader if a close alliance or ‘special relationship’ is unpopular with public opinion. Romney may therefore find himself in a more difficult position when it comes to foreign policy than President Obama has in the past four years.

Although President Obama has had a number of foreign policy failures – probably most importantly his failure to close Guantanamo Bay – his more nuanced approach to foreign policy, which included building alliances and opening a dialog, has warmed European opinion towards America in recent years. While Mitt Romney may see this as representative of a decline in American power abroad, I believe that President Obama’s policy has rehabilitated America’s image abroad and has lent greater legitimacy and authority to American diplomacy. If Mr. Romney wins and takes America back to a Bush-style posturing and overly aggressive foreign policy, he may find his relations with European leaders to be somewhat cooler than his predecessor.

[Image Credit:]