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A Distant Look At The 2008 Election

Let's be honest, it's very rare for rival candidates in an American Presidential race to get this much coverage in Britain. But this time attitudes here have altered. The candidates are making headlines and gaining recognition.

This may have something to do with domestic political boredom. Our three rival political parties are so close to one another in policy terms that there's virtually no room left for interesting argument. But one of the things they all agree about, privately, is that the eight years of George W. Bush were very bad news indeed for Britain. That makes the prospect of who comes next in Washington much more fascinating for everyone.

The Bush legacy has also caused the Republicans' traditional British allies, the Conservative Party, to flirt with the enemy. Some of them have started cozying up to the Democrats in recent months, not just because they think they might win - that's called covering your back - but also because they think it might be a good thing if they did win. And that's called a sea change.

The new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is also keeping his distance from the Oval Office. It's a million miles away from the Tony Blair days, when our Prime Minister was always popping into Washington for a friendly chat. We haven't followed your domestic debate, but most people here deeply distrusted Mr Bush's foreign policies. You will still hear the word "hate" freely used about the current incumbent of the White House.

The desire for someone completely different is palpable not just here in Britain, but all over Europe. The two men and one woman who now seek to replace him are certainly no Bush clones. That is why we're taking notice. To us, John McCain seems to represent a more intelligent, moderate and traditional form of Republicanism. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton are seen here as reformers.

Politics gets people fired up when it is too close to call. Once, we probably couldn't have found Texas or Ohio on a map. Now we're all armchair experts.

We read that the theme of your election is change. That's certainly reflected over here. Europeans are counting down to November even faster than you, with the near unanimous view that anyone would be better than the current incumbent. That will be George W. Bush's enduring legacy - in a hopelessly divided Europe, he managed to unite almost everyone - against him.
By Ed Boyle

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