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Overseas buzz differs for Obama, McCain

  • Story Highlights
  • Barack Obama meets foreign leaders on trip to Mideast and Europe
  • Obama has slight edge over John McCain in U.S. polls but big lead in British one
  • Media coverage of Obama's trip has been extensive
  • McCain has been overseas more often, so Obama trip has novelty factor, editor says
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From Robin Oakley
European Political Editor
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(CNN) -- Barack Obama's overseas trip has generated a lot more buzz than John McCain's foreign travels, but when it comes to popularity abroad, both candidates have their strengths.

Sen. John McCain hasn't gotten as much coverage when he traveled to such places as Mosul, Iraq, in March.

Sen. Barack Obama's trip to the Middle East and Europe has attracted heavy media attention.

McCain is more of a familiar face among Europe's politicians. The senator from Arizona is better known because he's met with a lot of foreign leaders and has been active in conferences overseas, said Robin Niblett, a London, England-based international affairs analyst.

But European lawmakers said McCain's experience could work against him because of the association with President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Obama, on the other hand, is more of a fresh face abroad; the trip is his first since sewing up the Democratic nomination in June. It's his first visit to Afghanistan and first to Iraq in two years.

In addition to Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama has passed through Kuwait since leaving the United States on Thursday. He's expected to visit Jordan and Israel before making a European swing through Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

The novelty of Obama's trip increases the media attention because the storyline is more interesting, according to Michael Crowley, senior editor of The New Republic. Video Watch: Is Obama's trip getting too much coverage? »

"When McCain goes overseas, it's sort of 'dog bites man.' There's not really that much of an interesting angle to it," Crowley said Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources."

Obama's Trip

Sen. Barack Obama is set to step onto the world's stage. During his trip to the Middle East and Europe, Obama will visit:
  • Jordan
  • Israel (with a trip to Ramallah, West Bank)
  • Germany
  • France
  • United Kingdom

"This is an incredible story, the first African-American nominee going abroad after a long period of anti-Americanism, promising a new start and a new direction for the country. There's so many fascinating angles, whereas McCain is sort of offering somewhat more of a continuation of what we already know."

Although Obama is making his trip abroad as a senator from Illinois and not a presidential candidate, the tour is aimed at boosting his foreign policy credentials.

His trip has produced several high-profile photo ops, including pictures of Obama with American troops and with leaders such as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

All three of the major U.S. broadcast networks' anchors -- Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams -- are set to cover Obama from overseas.

"What that means, of course, is that the 'CBS Evening News,' 'NBC Nightly News' and ABC's 'World News' will be broadcast from Europe and the Middle East this week, throwing an even brighter spotlight on Barack's [Obama's] excellent adventure," said Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources."

McCain, however, was met by zero anchors on his foreign trips since he became the presumptive Republican nominee, Kurtz pointed out.

A recent poll from Britain's Guardian newspaper and ICM Research suggests that Obama is five times as popular as McCain there.

Conducted this month, the poll indicates that 53 percent think Obama would make the better president, compared with 11 percent for McCain. The remaining 36 percent declined to express a preference.

The survey, conducted July 9-10, questioned 1,009 adults and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.


Back in the United States, Obama leads McCain by a much smaller margin: 47 percent to 41 percent, according to CNN's latest "poll of polls."

The poll of polls includes five surveys: Gallup (July 12-14), CBS/The New York Times (July 7-14), ABC/The Washington Post (July 10-13), Quinnipiac (July 8-13) and Newsweek (July 9-10).

CNN's Kristi Keck contributed to this report.

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