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Romney's strong debate performance rattles Europe

  • U.S. President Barack Obama's lukewarm performance in the first presidential debate sparked unease across Europe on Thursday, where hopes are primarily pinned on his securing a second term.

    Polling conducted immediately after Wednesday’s 90-minute televised debate in Denver, Colorado indicated that Republican candidate Mitt Romney came out on top.

    Various surveys gave Romney a 46 to 67 percent margin, while Obama trailed behind at 22 to 25 percent.

    According to financial analysts, in Europe, where leaders have worked closely with the Obama administration over the past two years to resolve the eurozone debt crisis, alarm bells rang over Romney's singling out of deficit-ridden Spain as a poorly administered economy.

    "Romney is making analogies that aren't based on reality," Spain’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told reporters after a meeting of his center-right party.

    Spanish media reports highlighted the fact that Spain was the only European country mentioned.

    "Spain has never been mentioned in a presidential debate as a symbol of failure," said the left-leaning El Pais newspaper. "What happened last night makes history. And not in a good way."

    Political pundits in France and Germany also expressed surprise at Obama's lackluster performance, predicting the November 6 election could be much tighter that earlier expected.

    "Obama showed a lack of desire to be president, which could put him on shaky ground as a presidential candidate," said liberal German news magazine Der Spiegel.

    France's Le Monde newspaper asked on its front page: "Where did the favorite go?" with a headline below saying: "Obama fails his first televised debate against an incisive Romney."

    It is widely accepted that European countries, whether led by a center-left or center-right government, are more broadly aligned with the Democrats when it comes to social and tax policy, the environment and foreign-affairs issues.

    "The Europeans have a general uneasiness about a Romney presidency," said Jan Techau, the director of Carnegie Europe.

    "It's not because they don't like him, but there are a lot of neoconservative policy advisers who would come back into office under a Romney presidency, and that is a prospect that a lot of European leaders are not comfortable with.”