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Swiss papers reserved about Obama’s chances

Obama graced the front pages of Swiss newspapers on Thursday

The Swiss press agree that Barack Obama's success in securing enough votes to win the Democratic Party nomination for the United States presidency is historic.

But while some newspapers focus on the black senator’s skin colour, others insist race will not be the deciding factor in November’s vote, and say there are still a lot of question marks about Obama.

Some of the French-language papers have high hopes that Obama’s candidature can lead to reconciliation between the races.

The Tribune de Genève points to a fundamental turnaround that has taken place since the campaigning opened. “His colour, his name and his origins are anything but a handicap in an America which is apparently ready to let itself be seduced by a message of hope and reconciliation at home and abroad,” says its editorial.

But another Geneva-based paper, Le Temps, says he must rise above the race issue and prove he is an ‘American like everyone else’. Only by doing this, the paper says, can he defeat the Republican candidate, John McCain.

“Barack Obama has stepped into history,” writes Le Matin. The Lausanne newspaper repeats a comment made in the US press by Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas: “A hero has stepped onto the stage. For everyone among us who have hopes and dreams, he is a hero.”

The Bund newspaper in the capital, Bern, calls Obama’s success in the primaries “an historic moment on the way to reconciliation between the white majority and black minority”.

But the Bund warns that many voters have entrenched views and reforms can only get through if they do not stray from “the American way of life”, whatever the skin colour of the politician.

Race is less of an issue for the German-language newspapers in Zurich. The Tages-Anzeiger says Obama now has the delicate task of wooing his defeated challenger as well as the coalition of voters who supported her: women, seniors and members of the lower middle class.

Picking up pieces

“Only if he works with Hillary Clinton and succeeds in picking up the pieces of the primaries, will he have a chance to move into the White House,” the Tages-Anzeiger said.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) devotes much of its editorial not to Obama but to Clinton, asking: “What does Hillary want?”, repeating a question she herself asked publicly on Tuesday.

The NZZ says Clinton has nothing more to lose and her quest to be named Obama’s running mate ups the pressure on him.

“If Obama rejects her – which he must do if he is wise – she can pretend to be insulted and limit her involvement in the campaign against McCain in the hope that Obama loses. If she is taken on as running mate, that will put her in a good position for the fight in four years’ time. If McCain wins, she is automatically in pole position for 2012.”

“The Clinton era is over” is the title of the editorial in the Basler Zeitung. However, the Washington correspondent of the Basel newspaper says there are still many Democrats who do not think Obama can broaden his voter base enough to win in November.

“But no one should underestimate Obama. He has matured in the campaign against Clinton. And the US will not only choose between two candidates but between two men with fundamentally different political views. It will be about content, not personalities.

“Obama’s chances are not bad if he goes into the election leading a united party.”

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

The number of Americans with Swiss origins is estimated to be around 1.2 million. There were 52,415 dual nationals at the end of last year.

The states with the highest number of these “Swiss Americans” are California, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

There is no such thing as a “Swiss” vote. The Swiss community is so old and spread out that no political party dominates.

Americans of Swiss origin don’t have an issue around which to build a community, unlike immigration for Latinos or the Middle East conflict for Jews and Muslims.

According to Erdmann Schmocker, who has chronicled the community’s history, Americans of Swiss origin tend to mirror the concerns of most American voters.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR