- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

LONDON (AP) — Europeans awoke Wednesday to find themselves plunged into the middle of the U.S. presidential race after the Republican front-runner accused President Obama of cozying up to Europe while ignoring basic American values.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a GOP presidential candidate 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 U.S. at the expense of free enterprise.

“He wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society,” Mr. Romney 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 by 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 U.S.A. has about Europe, that they are freeloaders, with no defense capability, and live on welfare benefits.”

Mr. Romney‘s rhetorical attack — on Obama and on Europe — made clear that he’s running for president in part by running against European values.

European analysts with long experience tracking the interplay between Europe and the U.S. 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.

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