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Europe favors Obama despite disappointments

BRUSSELS -- U.S. President Barack Obama no longer inspires the enthusiasm he once did but Europe still favors him, doubtful of Republican challenger Mitt Romney even if his election would spell no fundamental change in ties with Washington.

With the race for the White House neck-and-neck, polls in Europe give Obama a massive lead β€” 75 percent to just 8 percent for Romney according to the latest survey by the German Marshall Fund.

The president's personal approval rating in Europe stands at 71 percent, down 12 percentage points but still remarkable after four years marked by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Barring a major international crisis, U.S. elections turn on the economy.

But in Europe, Obama is credited with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the reform of health care, though the stalemate in the Israel-Palestine conflict and failure to close the Guantanamo detention center are negatives.

Some other successes he can claim, such as the tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden, also play better to U.S. audiences than in Europe.

Failings aside, it remains a fact that Obama β€œis the closest thing (in the United States) to a Social-Democrat,” as known in Europe, said Jan Techau, head of the Carnegie Europe think tank.

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