A Republican romp in U.S. midterm elections that was built in part on American anxiety over an increasingly dangerous world prompted concerns from overseas Wednesday that President Obama’s global role will only be further diminished.
With little prospect for ending Washington gridlock on major domestic issues, Obama will have no shortage of foreign crises to turn to, including Russian advances in Ukraine, the disintegrating order in the Middle East and the threat of a spreading Ebola virus.
But from London to Tokyo, observers said the bruising defeats sustained by Obama’s Democratic allies will likely leave him with less clout in trying to navigate global troubles – and could add to a leadership void that Republicans seized on to help gain advantage with voters.
“Obama has become the incredible shrinking president,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo.“He’s very much weakened by the midterm results and that’s going to diminish him in his foreign policy. Leaders in Asia will now view him as a lame duck.”
In Europe, where Obama remains considerably more popular than he is in the United States, leaders long ago gave up on the idea that he could fundamentally reorient America’s global role. But Tuesday’s defeat confirmed there will continue to be a vacuum for the final two years of what many Europeans once hoped would be a transformational presidency.
“I don’t think Europeans were expecting much in terms of U.S. leadership over the next two years, and this will reinforce their beliefs,” said Mujtaba Rahman, Europe Director for the Eurasia Group, a global consulting firm.