- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 1, 2008

LONDON | Keith Ramsay learned his U.S. politics by watching seven seasons of the “West Wing” and would vote for actor Martin Sheen if he could.

Because Mr. Sheen is not running in the real world, Mr. Ramsay said he would cast his vote - if he had one - for Sen. Barack Obama, because “he’s a new broom and he probably couldn’t make things any worse.”

From the mayor of London to this nation’s own “Joe the Plumber,” Obamamania has rolled across the British isles like a tsunami. Every public opinion poll here in the past two months has reflected British confidence that Mr. Obama will be elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday by a landslide of 66 percent, 70 percent or 64 percent.

Elsewhere in Europe, Obamamania is equally, if not more, dramatic: 83 percent in Switzerland, 69 percent in France for two such examples.

Still, there are pockets where enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate is less pronounced, particularly the conservative Midlands and West Country of England, where suspicion of anything new and different is endemic.

Mr. Ramsay, a motor car company worker and a Midlander, told The Washington Times: “Obama is a mystery man to us. To me he’s the man from nowhere.”

Mr. Ramsay, clearly unaware that Mr. Obama visited Europe this past summer, wondered aloud: “Has he ever been east of Washington, D.C.?”

Others were also ambivalent about the candidate.

Mental health worker Elizabeth Hopkins said Mr. Obama “lacks experience and wisdom,” although she did say she wouldn’t give up on him totally.

“I would say to him, give the presidency another shot in 2012, and in the meantime make the most of those years by gaining experience and personal development,” she said. “He needs a more statesmanlike quality to convince me.”

Information technology consultant Paul Andrews also put distance between himself and the Obama craze.

“Obama is a great orator and very charismatic,” he said, “but I feel there is no substance in what he delivers verbally.”

Mr. Andrews said he would have preferred a presidential race between Mitt Romney and Hillary Rodham Clinton, in which case he would have voted for the latter.

“Change is good,” he said, “but America is foolish to rush headfirst into change for change’s sake.”

Pat Murdoch and her daughter, Caroline, both involved in public relations, said they were impressed by the Republican ticket, largely because of Sarah Palin’s presence on it.

Mrs. Murdoch said the Alaska governor represents “a fairly normal section of society.” Her daughter added that as far as Mr. Obama is concerned, “I’m not convinced.”

Still, the verdict of a solid majority of Britons is that the Democrat should and will win decisively.

One British political pundit, Johann Hari, suggested that the poll numbers reflect “our allergy to red-state Republicanism.” He cited one recent poll that found only 14 percent of British voters would pull the lever for Sen. John McCain.

“If Britain was the 51st state,” Mr. Hari said, “we would be way out there in the blue.”

London Mayor Boris Johnson, a maverick himself with wild blond hair to match and one of the most powerful and charismatic political figures in Britain, has clearly fallen for Mr. Obama, whom he sees as the “incarnation of change and hope” he believes the United States needs.

“Obama deserves to win because he seems talented, compassionate, and because he offers the hope of rejuvenating the greatest country on earth, in the eyes of the rest of us,” Mr. Johnson said.

Joe the Plumber is also alive and well in Britain - except that he’s firmly under Mr. Obama’s spell. In Britain, his name is Joe Town and he is from Maidstone, in England’s southeastern corner.

Mr. Obama “seems like he’s got the right stuff, the right leadership qualities,” Mr. Town, 18, told the Sun newspaper. “He doesn’t have any doubts about what he’s doing and he’s very confident.”

Nor does the issue of race appear to matter to Mr. Town.

“Of course, stupid people will not want him because of his skin color, but they are what they are - stupid,” Mr. Town said.

If Mr. Obama somehow manages to lose, Mr. Hari said, “our stormy little island will have to endure four more years of barely trimmed Bush, a collapsing economy, an unraveling climate and growing jihadism.”

Julia Clark, head of political research at the Ipsos MORI polling firm in Britain, doubts that prediction will come true.

“The [opinion poll] margins are so wide,” she said, that “I’m sure we’re not being misled.”

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