Graz has posters everywhere for a new club opening soon called Club Obama. This is not remotely surprising to anyone here - Europe loves Obama. They think he is the next JFK. The election will be a fun one, but it's hard to see how McCain can overcome the connection to Bush. His insistence on staying in Iraq doesn't help either. On the other hand, Americans are easily distracted by racism and religion.
I predict the most ugliness in the South. The election will tear them apart. You have a very large black population that remains touchy and combative. The other dominant group, rednecks, will soon start frothing about a nigger raghead president. I lived there; that's what they'll say. Watch.
In terms of world opinion, electing Obama would be huge. France and Germany, in particular, cannot get enough of him. He could even top JFK at the 50th anniversary of his 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech. Since I came to Bremen, people asked me all the time about 'de black guy.' I said all along I thought he would win, but (as with the last 2 elections) can explain it along a different vector: anti-intellectuallism. Fuck race, religion, and gender. The last 2 presidential elections were won by portraying the loser as smart. Bookish. Ivory Tower. Out of touch. Clinton was more vulnerable than Obama along this axis, and that is why she lost.
In terms of real difference, how much can you expect of the man? We're still well over $1 trillion in debt to China. Our scientific and technological advantage has been hamstrung. There will be some movement on the environment and torture, but only enough to distract. We're still in Iraq, and I don't buy the quick extraction plan. He will drag it out as much as he can, or find some other war, because the same war profiteers that run the country are still in power. And still making money; the war in Iraq remains a huge success for those who clamored for it. Obviously, it was far less successful than they planned, and the collapse of the Carlyle group should be a national holiday. But our tax money keeps flowing to make weapons. Try to change it and they'll splatter his cortex over his wife just like they did in 1963. Moving the focus elsewhere, such as Iran, is perfectly OK; as long as a major chunk of the American economy ends up paying for weapons and gas, Obama gets to live.