Paris From prime ministers to college students, Europeans want to cloak Barack Obama in a warm embrace when he arrives on the continent next week. But they're also aware that anything that looks or smells like elitist Old Europe could hurt the Democratic contender with voters back home.
Obama is expected to make stops in Europe and the Middle East during his overseas trip, which is likely to include Afghanistan and Iraq. Though he has yet to finalize his itinerary, in Europe he is already set to skip Brussels, Belgium, the capital of the modern united continent, for the traditional symbols of economic and military power: London, Paris and Berlin.
All those European capitals' leaders have expressed a willingness to adapt their schedules to see the U.S. politician whose sky-high approval ratings in their countries are at least as good as their own. Polls reveal that, if they could vote in the United States, between 53 percent and 72 percent of the British, French and German public would pull the lever for Obama.
"If Britons elected American presidents, Barack Obama would have no worries," began an editorial in the left-wing British newspaper, the Guardian.
Yet the editorial also recognized his popularity in Europe would not help at home: "To be seen as Europe's pet is the last thing a presidential candidate needs - especially one who wants to shed his elitist image with white working-class American voters."
The centerpiece of Obama's European visit will be a speech in Berlin. Across Europe, the chattering class has been caught up in the disagreement within the German government over whether he should give that address in front of the historic Brandenburg Gate near to where a wall once divided East and West Berlin.