Bennett, Vimont, Kennard, Schaake discuss U.S. Elections and Foreign Policy Implications
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) on October 24 in Brussels co-hosted an event on the U.S. elections with Executive Secretary General of the EEAS Pierre Vimont, U. S. Ambassador to the European Union William E. Kennard, Member of the European Parliament, Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake, and former U.S. Senator Robert Bennett. Ian Lesser, Executive Director of GMF’s Brussels office, moderated the discussion.
The conversation was lively and informative, dealing with key campaign issues and their impact on European perceptions and foreign policy questions. The panelists talked about the exceptional role of technology and social media for communicating with voters, the limited relevance of foreign policy to the outcome of the elections, and the pivotal role of the super PACs that are now able to outspend the candidate’s campaigns.
The European attendants were very interested in the politics of the campaign and how the debates have changed its course. Bennett described the first presidential debate was a “game-changer,” not strictly because of Obama’s lacking performance, but rather because Romney was able to position himself as the “acceptable other” to those who have lost faith in the incumbent president. This is in stark contrast to the expectations of Europeans, 79 per cent of which are in favor of a second Obama-term, according to GMF’s recent Transatlantic Trends polling.
Audience members also asked what a possible Romney administration means for both transatlantic relations as well as the U.S.’s foreign policy in general. Both Kennard and Bennett said that whoever is elected will likely have little effect on both the U.S.’s foreign policy and transatlantic relations. Relations will continue as usual because of strong interest regardless of political party in maintaining a strong partnership.
Finally, particular emphasis was put on the tightness of the race, the importance of demographics, and the associated relevance of voter turnout. As one speaker put it: “the question won’t be, 'how many minority voters are there?', but how enthusiastic will they be?’”.
The audience—which mainly consisted of European officials, think tankers and private sector representatives—came away with an increased understanding of the key domestic issues that will determine the outcome of these elections, not in the least the overwhelming importance of the American economy, as well as the significant potential for a Republican victory.