Page last updated at 23:16 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 00:16 UK

Is Obama's trip a hit back home?

By Jack Izzard
BBC News, Washington

Forget presidential - the welcome given to Barack Obama in Berlin was more befitting for a rock star than a politician.

Barack Obama
Mr Obama was greeted in Berlin by an audience of 200,000

More than 200,000 people turned out to hear him speak in the German capital.

Newspaper headlines proclaimed "Obamamania" and compared him to John F Kennedy.

Not bad for a junior senator from Illinois - but not surprising either.

Surveys suggest three out of four Germans want him to be the next US president.

But this tour was never about winning over Europeans or charming Middle Eastern leaders.

It was about impressing American voters.

It is they who will decide who will be moving into the White House next January.

'Calming fears'

Most American observers agree that Mr Obama's main aim with the trip was to show off his presidential credentials to the folks back home.

John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for Slate magazine, reckons he has done a pretty good job:

"He has managed to look presidential - meeting foreign leaders as an equal, and American generals as a potential commander-in-chief. This trip will have gone some way to calming the fears in the electorate as to whether he could step into the role."

Of course, key to projecting that presidential image back to America is the media.

John McCain
Mr McCain says the media is biased in favour of his opponent

And he scored a major coup by convincing all three US television networks to send their star news anchors to follow him.

The American media has covered his trip in detail - at times making it look like a state visit, rather than that of a candidate.

Mr Obama's Republican critics have only been able to look on enviously as his news conferences were broadcast live and in full.

By contrast their candidate John McCain's town hall-style meetings have attracted less coverage.

One TV network interrupted its broadcast of a McCain speech to report on the rescue of a bear cub in California.

The McCain camp responded by issuing an internet advert which pokes fun at what it says is America's biased media.

Trump card

But behind the sarcasm is the realisation that this week at least, Mr Obama has won the battle for headlines.

He has also managed to avoid making any major gaffes in front of the army of cameras and microphones which followed his every move.

But America's powerful pro-Israel lobby may worry that on his visit to the Middle East he appeared too friendly with the Palestinian leadership.

And cynics accuse him of arrogance - acting like a president before he has won the White House.

But with its carefully choreographed gravitas, this trip will go some way to reassuring US voters that he is not the foreign policy ingenue his critics claim he is.

Of course his electoral trump card may lie closer to home.

Many Americans are deeply worried about the country's fragile economy.

The election is more likely to hinge on issues like jobs and fuel prices than on the finer points of foreign policy.

So while the adulation of 200,000 Berliners is no doubt heartening for Barack Obama, it is ultimately a little irrelevant.

Europeans cannot vote in US elections.

And as they rush towards November's polling day, Mr Obama and his team will never forget that it is what Americans think that counts.

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