Europe's for Obama -- Big Time

European views of McCain? He's well respected, particularly for his personal history, including his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Should Barack Obama land in the Oval Office, his first trip to

In a slew of conversations with Europeans during a reporting trip to

European views of McCain? He's well respected, particularly for his personal history, including his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. His stated willingness to work closely with the European Union is also a plus. Still, many Europeans question his age, which in many minds is too indicative of the past rather than the future, and even more importantly, they see him as too quick to follow Bush policies in Iraq.

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A big part of Obama's appeal is that he's emerging on the world stage after eight years of Bush, who had a go-it-alone cowboy image, as the Europeans see it, and five-plus years of an unpopular war in Iraq. Europeans resent having been asked to -- or pressured to, in the opinion of many of those interviewed -- contribute to the war effort, results of which are murky at best.

Moreover, many blame the war -- at least in part -- for the economic sluggishness affecting both the U.S. and Europe and are heartened to hear similar talk from Obama. In fact, it's his repeated pledges to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq that resonate loudest among Europeans. His calls for developing more alternative energy sources and dealing with global warming, while also important to Europeans, pale in comparison.

Europeans I talked with also spoke of something else. They often referenced Obama's youth and apparent vitality as representative of a new dawn in America and the world -- offering a sense of turning the page to a brighter, more optimistic future for people everywhere. They see him as a vibrant new leader who can be trusted to work with Europe and other regions in a more mutually beneficial way.

Having said all this, however, people both in high places and "regular folks," were quick to question whether Americans are really ready to put an African-American in the White House. Their knowledge of U.S. history makes many skeptical, and it dampens their hopes of seeing him elected.

Some also question his readiness for such high office, though many dismiss his relative inexperience. For example, Janez Skrabec, the head of Riko Group, an industrial and building engineering firm, and one who's of a similar age as Obama, opined that experience is often overrated. As he put it, a leader can be experienced but still lack vision and the tools with which to motivate others. Far better, he said, to have a leader with sound ideas, an ability to inspire and the wisdom to surround himself with good associates -- all qualities Europeans readily see in Barack Obama.

Mark Sfiligoj
Deputy Managing Editor, the Kiplinger letters
As Deputy Managing Editor of the Kiplinger Business Forecasting Group, Sfiligoj helps to plan, write and edit The Kiplinger Letter as well as content for other Kiplinger publications and Kiplinger.com. Before joining Kiplinger in 1987, he covered the energy and aerospace industries in Texas and Washington, D.C. With Kiplinger, he spent many years covering politics and business-related developments on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch. He holds a BS in journalism from Kent State University.