International observers

Times Staff Writer

If there are Republicans in the race for the presidency, you wouldn't have known it in Europe, where Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama seem like the only game in town.

In part, this may be wishful thinking. While the current leaders in Britain, France and Germany have made their peace with the Bush administration, their publics are more inclined to hold a grudge.

The relative strengths of Clinton vis a vis Obama are analyzed endlessly in newspapers. Few Europeans could pick former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney out of a lineup. In Britain, even some Conservatives, the historical allies of the Republican Party, have been lured over to the Democratic camp. Simon Burns, a Tory member of Parliament, blames the GOP for waging a war in Iraq whose unpopularity in Europe knows no bounds.

Europeans tend to accuse the U.S., with its off-the-books arrests and rough interrogations of terrorism suspects, of squandering the moral leadership of Western democracies. People "want the Americans to be a beacon to the world," said Philippe Maniere of the nonpartisan Institut Montaigne in Paris. "Even if they're not."

If nothing else, Europeans are hoping that whoever moves into the White House will have a less go-it-alone approach. They like it when Obama and Clinton talk about "change," because it's what Europeans are talking about, too.

Even Sen. John McCain is being lauded for having, in the words of a Times of London columnist, "overthrown the old order of the Republican Party."

"We want to be able to love America again," former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl wrote recently in the weekly Die Zeit. "But we are skeptical, because America has asked us in the last 10 years only when it was about troops or money."

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The U.S. presidential campaign is being followed closely around the globe, often with a sense of excitement about the democratic process -- and admiration, in many places, that a woman and an African American could be vying for the nomination of a major political party. And there appears to be something close to consensus that whoever wins the election, the next occupant of the White House will probably be more amenable to working with international leaders than President Bush has been. Times foreign correspondents assessed the mood in four regions where the U.S. campaign is viewed through decidedly local lenses.

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kim.murphy@latimes.com

Contributors: Geraldine Baum and Achrene Sicakyuz in Paris, Tracy Wilkinson and Maria de Cristofaro in Rome, Megan K. Stack in Moscow and Christian Retzlaff in Berlin.

For The Record Los Angeles Times Tuesday, February 05, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction German chancellor: An article in Monday's Section A about Europe's view of the U.S. presidential campaign said former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told the publication Die Zeit that Germans "want to be able to love America again." The quote came from ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
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