- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MUNICH — As Germany’s elections approach, one politician has emerged to give Chancellor Angela Merkel a run for her money in the polls.

Well, sort of.

In a theoretical German election, President Obama, it appears, handily would defeat Mrs. Merkel.

“If Obama could run for election in Germany, he would become our next chancellor,” said Andreas Sperling, CEO of YouGov Germany, an online pollster.

After revelations that the National Security Agency was spying on foreigners here, YouGov conducted a poll that found Mr. Obama still remains the most popular politician in Germany. People here may be upset about the spying allegations — but, apparently, not enough to change their minds.

Three out of four Germans said Mr. Obama gives the United States a good image internationally, according to the poll, while 65 percent said they would vote for him if they could.

YouGov also found that 42 percent of voters believe Mr. Obama is the more successful politician, compared with 34 percent who sided with Mrs. Merkel.

Some find it surprising, considering that Mrs. Merkel has shielded Germany from the worst of the eurozone crisis, while Mr. Obama has been spying on residents here.

Still, pollsters admit it’s all an exercise in make-believe.

“I cannot think of a Chancellor Obama, or a President Merkel,” said Thomas Petersen, a pollster at the Institute for Allensbach, based in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

When you take Mr. Obama out of the picture, Mrs. Merkel is actually quite popular in Germany. Most polls find that about two-thirds of voters would re-elect her.

Germans appreciate that Mrs. Merkel has responded to struggling countries, such as Greece, by demanding a strict line of austerity, including tax increases and spending cuts, in return for aid.

“The perception is that Angela Merkel is reliable and the country is in good hands with her,” Mr. Petersen said. “Merkel is much more popular than chancellors have been for a long time in Germany.”

But even Mrs. Merkel can’t compete with Mr. Obama and his perceived charisma.

Mr. Obama is a borderline celebrity here. He always has been popular in Germany, though some of the enthusiasm has soured over the years.

The Germans still see Mr. Obama as the “anti-Bush,” who was the most unpopular American president here since World War II, according to Mr. Petersen.

By contrast, Mr. Obama is the most popular American president here since John F. Kennedy, Mr. Petersen said. He’s a relief compared to his predecessor.

“After Bush, Obama was the messiah,” Mr. Petersen explained.

That said, Mr. Obama’s actions haven’t gone unnoticed. There is no doubt his approval ratings have taken a hit in Germany as of late — at one point early in his first term that rating hovered around 90 percent.

In addition to tensions surrounding the spying scandal, Germans are also upset with Mr. Obama for his lack of action on climate change, gun control, drones used during warfare and keeping Guantanamo Bay open.

“German views of Obama have sobered,” said Heike MacKerron, director of the Berlin office at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, in a recent blog post. “The German public understands that he is neither a rock star nor a man who can single-handedly change the world.”

Somehow, most Germans have managed to look past all that, because Mr. Obama remains the most popular politician here.

Fortunately, for Mrs. Merkel, she won’t face the same fate as Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Or will she?

“He can have his third term here,” Mr. Sperling joked.

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