US presidential elections are always a big story for the world's media. But with so many people across the EU considering the stakes this year especially high, the European press has put particular focus on the contest.
Kerry gets the international vote
US President George Bush has always been a polarizing figure for most Europeans. His folksy charm and Texan cowboy image may play to the worst stereotypes that some in Europe have of America, but the majority of EU citizens also strongly disagree with Bush's policies on the war in Iraq, the environment and international law.
The watershed of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States prodded Bush to radically reshape American foreign policy, often in ways that non-Americans found arrogant and brash. With the wide-ranging implications for the rest of the world hinging on the outcome of the US election, many of Europe's newspapers and magazines have decided to go so far as to endorse a candidate this year.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, much of the European press has come out in favor of Bush's opponent John Kerry. The Danish paper Information said the whole world should have the right to cast a vote in the US presidential elections, because the world belongs to everyone and everyone's future was at stake when the world's most powerful leader is elected. It noted that while in the US the race between Kerry and Bush is a dead heat, three quarters of voters in other countries would choose Kerry without hesitation.
Backlash for the Guardian
The left-leaning Guardian newspaper even started a letter-writing campaign that encouraged British citizens to contact potential swing-voters in the hotly contested state of Ohio. However, that initiative backfired after the London paper received hundreds of complaints about foreign meddling in US affairs.
The Guardian was backed in its support for Kerry by the business-oriented Financial Times. It called Bush's challenger "the better, safer choice" for Americans to pick next week. Even the respected British Economist newsmagazine on Thursday reversed its 2000 endorsement of Bush, arguing this year Kerry was the man for the most important job on the planet.
"It was a difficult call," said The Economist editor Bill Emmott. "But in the end we felt [Bush] has been too incompetent to deserve re-election."
The Economist said it has a right to plead for a US candidate since some 45 percent of its sales were in the United States. That can't be said for Germany's tabloid Bild. However, the paper does have the largest circulation in Europe, reaching an estimated 12 million readers daily. Despite Germans' overwhelming antipathy for Bush and his policies, Bild was one of the few foreign publications to back the incumbent for reelection.
Bild for Bush
Published by the conservative Springer Verlag, Bild said Bush was a known quantity in Europe and that he had learned from the mistakes of his first term. The paper also argued Bush had a better sense than Kerry of what Washington could expect from its transatlantic partners. That's a reference to the assumption that Kerry will ask Iraq war opponents France and Germany to contribute troops to help stabilize the country.
"Bush knows that Europe and Germany do not have the military capacity for a significantly larger commitment of troops beyond their current deployments abroad," Bild journalist Hugo Müller-Vogg said in the endorsement.
The tabloid also said that Kerry would wage a weaker war on terror than Bush and had done little to explain how he would lead the United States on the world stage.
Of course, most Americans are left cold by all of the interest in their election, but that likely won't stop Europeans and others from offering their opinions in the future according to some media watchers.
"It's another symbol of globalization," Roy Greenslade, a British journalism professor and media columnist, told the Reuters news agency. "We realize that the world is more important than its borders, and that everything crosses borders, including media."