US voters abroad mobilize for presidential poll

(By Deutsche Welle) Many Americans abroad have already postmarked their ballots for the presidential election. In Germany, Democrats and Republicans are debating the issues in a political culture that’s often far outside the American context.

On a windy Saturday afternoon in Cologne, John Huggins and his 19-year-old son Jonas stand in front of the subway station at the entrance to the Schildergasse shopping district near Neumarkt, braving both tempestuous September weather and suspicious passer-bys in the hope of drawing out the few American citizens from an anonymous sea of weekend consumers.

It is less than a month away from the US presidential election, one that media analysts and political operatives in America have billed as the most important in a generation – just like the 2008 election. Huggins and Jonas both carry signs advertizing, a website founded by Democrats Abroad which helps Americans register for their absentee ballots. Their goal is to get out the vote more than 4,000 miles from the US mainland.

Huggins, an American expatriate from South Carolina who works as a chemist, says he has voted in virtually all of the presidential elections in the quarter-century since he moved to Central Europe. But the 2008 campaign of then-senator Barack Obama inspired him to take to the streets of Cologne, the bustling cultural heart of the Rhineland, in search of Americans who had not yet applied for their absentee ballots.

“I’m actually very happy because most of the people we meet are first-time voters, young people that don’t know the system and need our assistance to apply for their absentee ballots, and so I think [that] I’m doing something good,” Huggins says.

The presidential campaign in the US has been framed largely as a referendum on a beleaguered incumbent, whose calls for hope and change have hit the hard political and economic realities of a world in upheaval. But Huggins remains an enthusiastic supporter of Obama. The expatriate chemist believes the president brought a positive change of attitude after the Bush administration. And Huggins views the Affordable Care Act, the president’s health care reform law known to some as Obamacare, as an achievement that has to be defended at all costs.

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US election unlikely to change US foreign policy

(By Deutsche Welle) As the election nears, President Obama and Governor Romney have tried to draw clear distinctions between their foreign policies. But the next president will face hard realities that leave little room for maneuver.

Throughout the campaign season, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has sought to present an alternative vision to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, saying that he will lead the US into another “American Century” by acting with “clarity and resolve” on the world stage.

Romney’s rhetoric plays to an electorate that still views the United States as the most important country in the world, but one whose influence is ebbing after 10 years of war and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Just 24 percent of Americans believe their country plays “a more important” role as world leader compared to a decade ago, according to a September 2012 study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“When Obama was elected there was a recognition that the American people felt we were overcommitted in a number of places, and you’ve seen obviously the decision to get out of Iraq as the most obvious manifestation of that,” Stephen Walt, an American foreign policy expert at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, told DW. “Even when Obama decided he was going to escalate in Afghanistan he put a deadline on it.”

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Romney banks on Ryan to shore up conservative base

(By Deutsche Welle) In an era of deep partisanship in the US, Mitt Romney has chosen rising conservative star Paul Ryan as his running mate. Romney is hoping that the party base can deliver him with the White House.

With the Republican Party convention in Tampa, Florida less than a week away, presumed presidential candidate Mitt Romney has sought to unite a party badly bruised during a brutal primary process by selecting conservative icon Paul Ryan as his running mate.

“The old Romney was a moderate centrist Republican who would not have liked a Paul Ryan type figure,” Darrell West, an expert on US domestic politics at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C., told DW.

“But the political landscape has changed dramatically and Romney has concluded that he has to move to the right to win this election,” West said. “The new Romney is much more conservative than the old Romney was.”

According to Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, although Romney’s rightward pivot has electrified the Republican Party, it carries serious pitfalls that could alienate him with centrist voters in November.

“Given that Ryan represents a much more hard-edged kind of conservatism on social issues as well as on economic issues, it is a gamble – a very large gamble,” Ornstein told DW.

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