U.S. elections speakers tour visits DC, European cities
"We don't contribute to the American presidency, but we are certainly part of it." Piero Gastaldo's opening remarks at an event co-sponsored by GMF and the Compagnia di San Paolo in Turin, Italy, reflected the mood seen at each stop on the German Marshall Fund's second European speakers tour on the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. The tour brought three political-insiders from Washington, DC, to Turin, Munich, and Stockholm for a series of events on the November elections.
The traveling panel of experts featured Mike Allen, Chief Political Correspondent at Politico, Juleanna Glover, Senior Advisor at the Ashcroft Group, and Jamal Simmons, President of New Future Communications. The group spoke to large audiences of academics, journalists, diplomats, and representatives from the private sector in each city during the April 7-10 tour.
The speakers provided the audiences of well-informed Europeans with an insiders' view of the presidential race. Mike Allen told a Munich audience that this is "the season of the unexpected." Allen commented that Senator Barack Obama's rise "has been the biggest surprise over the past year and half," yet Europeans still should not discredit the possibility of the U.S. electing a Republican president. Just eight months ago numerous political pundits predicted voters would choose between Senators Rudolf Giuliani and Hillary Clinton in November. With six months to go before the general election there is still plenty of time for new twists and turns in the race to the White House.
While describing the current political climate in the United States, Jamal Simmons noted that Americans "are looking to move away from a divisive spirit." All three presidential candidates have worked to distance themselves from the current administration. According to Juleanna Glover, "There will be much more consensus building with Senator McCain," than we have seen with the current administration. "Democrats were looking for something new" in what all three candidates agreed is an "historical election." Senator Clinton has introduced new slogans based on the theme of "change" throughout her campaign. Senator Obama's campaign slogan "Change we can believe in" has been embraced by Americans seeking something new after eight years of President Bush.
In each city the speakers discussed issues that have been central in this year's debates, focusing on foreign policy and the consequences for the transatlantic relationship. On the domestic side, the declining economy has brought trade, healthcare, and fiscal policies into the forefront. The speakers agreed there will be a big change on the foreign policy front with any of the three candidates taking office. Democratic candidates especially have set themselves apart from the current administration with their plans to withdraw from Iraq. According to Simmons, "Climate change is probably going to be one of the major issues for whichever president wins the White House," and will be a "bridge to improved cooperation with other world leaders."