By TOM RAUM, Associated Press
President Barack Obama is taking a break from active campaigning for a few days to host back-to-back world summits. Yet U.S. presidential politics will be lurking just offstage at both.
First, leaders of eight wealthy democracies gather at Camp David on Friday and Saturday for the annual Group of Eight meeting, where Europe's spiraling debt is Topic No. 1. Then, it's to Chicago for a NATO meeting. The alliance's troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the European financial crisis will share the spotlight.
Europe's woes have a direct bearing on the U.S. economy and thus Obama's re-election prospects. American economic growth depends on the success of the 27-nation European Union, a bloc that is America's biggest trading partner.
The outlook is gloomy, with prospects of a Greece collapse looming and eight of the 17 eurozone countries mired in recession.
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney regularly accuses Obama of trying to transform the U.S. into "a European-style social welfare state." Obama is leading the nation down the same path as Greece, Romney says, a claim he's likely to expand as Greece's banking crisis deepens.
Obama will have a hard sell in persuading hard-pressed European NATO members in Chicago to increase support for Afghan security forces. Romney has criticized Obama for announcing a troop withdrawal timetable— but also suggests he'd bring U.S. troops home as soon as possible.
One sign that U.S. presidential politics is at play may be in who's not coming.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, facing unrest at home, is skipping the Camp David summit. Putin has signaled he'll hold off on any major new cooperation with the United States until he knows who will be president.
Romney has called Russia an "enemy."
He campaigned Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. Preparing for the summits, Obama scheduled no public appearances.
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