Europe has been plunged into the middle of the US presidential race after Republican front-runner Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of cozying up to it while ignoring basic American values.
Mr Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who served as a missionary in France and recently toured Europe, said Mr Obama is determined to impose a Euro-style welfare state on the US at the expense of free enterprise.
“He wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society,” he said in his victory speech after winning the New Hampshire primary. “We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity. This president takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; we look to the cities and small towns of America.”
Rosemary Hollis, director of the Olive Tree Scholarship program at London’s City University, said Mr Romney may succeed in putting Mr Obama on the defensive, putting him in the awkward position of either defending Europe’s social systems or letting the attacks go unanswered.
“Associating Obama with Europe links him to the current malaise in Europe, and Americans know it’s a basket case,” she said. “It plays to the stereotypical notion that the USA has about Europe, that they are freeloaders, with no defence capability, and live on welfare benefits.”
Mr Romney’s rhetorical attack - on Mr Obama, and on Europe - made clear that he is running for president in part by running against European values.
European analysts with long experience tracking the interplay between Europe and the US say this tactic has been tried before, but may be effective at a time when many American voters know the European Union is gripped by a financial crisis with frightening global overtones.