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'Subtle endorsements' as world leaders weigh in on Mitt Romney and President Obama

Published: Friday, July 27 2012 2:55 p.m. MDT

This combination of 2012 file photos shows U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Boulder, Colo. and Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Associated Press) This combination of 2012 file photos shows U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Boulder, Colo. and Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Associated Press)

As Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama battle for a foothold with American voters, some foreign leaders have weighed in on the election, commenting on the candidates and giving what the press calls, "subtle endorsements," while other leaders have been more candid.

In a March visit to the U.S., British Prime Minister David Cameron went to a basketball game in swing-state Ohio with President Obama rather than meeting with any Republican leaders. A Romney team member called the move "unprecedented."

Cameron's visit to the U.S. and a subsequent speech praising Obama could be seen as an endorsement of the president, a Telegraph article suggested in March.

"The president says what he will do and he sticks to it," Cameron said during a toast to Obama. "Yes, America must do the right thing but to provide moral leadership America must do it in the right way too. The first president I studied in school was Theodore Roosevelt. He talked of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. That is Barack's approach, and in following it he has pressed the rest button on the moral authority of the entire free world."

Downing Street aides said after the speech that Cameron was "politically neutral" and had not endorsed Obama.

"Our head is with Romney, but our heart is with Obama," The Huffington Post quoted a senior Tory leader as saying after Romney's visit to London. "Romney would be a fantastic CEO president but in our hearts there's connection that we all have with Obama."

In March, Foreign Policy reported on France's then-president Nicholas Sarkozy's remarks during a speech, calling them a "subtle endorsement" of Obama.

"There is also a presidential election in the United States," Sarkozy said, discussing the U.S. role in the Mideast peace process. "President Obama, who is a very great president, won't take the initiative before he's reelected — and I hope he will be — but there's a place for France and a place for Europe."

Sarkozy lost his bid for reelection in May as the nation voted for Socialist Francois Hollande in his place.

At a rally in Venezuela last Sunday, President Hugo Chavez called Romney the "far-right candidate of North America," citing Romney's support for capitalism and tying that support to Chavez's rival Henrique Capriles, who Chavez says wants to "subjugate Venezuela again to the service of imperialism, of capitalism."

"I believe the person to best explain the loser's agenda isn't Barack Obama but rather Romney, because it's the extreme right-wing agenda that borders on the fascism of the United States," Chavez said Monday, again comparing Capriles to Romney. Obama, he said, is "a good guy."

Mariela Castro, niece of Fidel Castro and daughter of Cuba's President Raul Castro, came to the U.S. after the State Department granted her and two government officials visas to visit the country. During the visit she voiced her opinion on which of the candidates she preferred, coming down on the side of Obama.

"As a citizen of the world, I would like him to win," Castro said during a CNN interview. "Seeing the candidates, I prefer Obama."

With Obama in charge, Castro said, the U.S. and Cuba could "normalize our relationship and have better relations than what we had under President Carter."

In July, Alexey Pushkov, chairman of the international affairs committee of the State Duma of Russia, said his country doesn't think Romney would be an easy partner to work with, and that his administration would be — "on the rhetorical side" — a replay of the Bush administration.

Obama, on the other hand, is an "acceptable" partner for Russia, Pushkov said.

Although not endorsing Obama, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized Romney for visiting Israel, saying he was "kissing the foot" of the Jewish state in order to "get some pennies for (his) campaign."

In March, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remarked on Obama, saying, "Two days ago, we heard the president of America say: 'We are not thinking of war with Iran.' This is good. Very good. It is a wise word. This is an exit from illusion."

Obama's not the only one who may have support from other national leaders, however.

"The taboo of commenting on a fellow world leaders' election chances does seem a little silly at times," Joshua Keating wrote at Foreign Policy. "For instance, it seems pretty obvious that Benjamin Netanyahu would prefer to see his old friend Mitt Romney in the White House next year."

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mitt Romney met and later became friends in the late 1970s. While Netanyahu has tried to avoid favoritism in the presidential race, The New York Times quoted his friends as saying the Israeli leader has paid close attention to Romney's political fortunes.

"To the extent that their personal relationship would give Netanyahu entree to the Romney White House in a way he that he doesn't now have to the Obama White House, the prime minister would certainly consider that to be a significant advantage," said Martin Indyk, a U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany hasn't given an indication of her preference, but Romney's campaign team told Tagesspiegel that Romney has plans to meet with her before the November elections. German businesses normally favor Republicans in American election, Germany's The Local reported, but in 2008 Obama's campaign received more German politician donations than his opposition.

Germany has been leading the way on Europe's ongoing economic crisis, and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble recently rejected Obama's criticism of the nation's actions, saying Obama should focus on the reduction of America's deficit and that it's easy to give advice to others.

During Romney's visit to Poland, former Polish president Lech Walesa, who won a Nobel Peace Prize and oversaw Poland's move to a post-communist state, endorsed Romney.

"I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too," Walesa said. "Governor Romney, get your success. Be successful!"

"This is a powerful statement on Polish relations with the U.S. right now," Alex Storozynski, president of the Kosciuszko Foundation, a Polish educational and cultural group, told ABC News. "Poles in Poland are frustrated with the Obama administration."

A June 2012 Pew poll on Obama's foreign policy standings showed that approval rates for the president's international policies dropped by more than six points from 2009 in most countries, but fell by double digits in European and Muslim countries surveyed as well as Russia, Japan and Mexico.

However, pluralities of people in more than half of the countries in the poll want Obama to be reelected.

In a July speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Romney accused Obama of having "diminished American leadership" around the world through his foreign policy and economic decisions.

"The president's policies have made it harder to recover from the deepest recession in 70 years, exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify, compromised our national security secrets, and in dealings with other nations, given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved and apology where it is not due," Romney said. "American leadership depends, as it always has, on our economic strength, on our military strength and on our moral strength. If any of these falter, no skill of diplomacy or presidential oratory can compensate."

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