BRUSSELS - President Barack Obama's lacklustre performance in the first US election debate provoked uneasiness in European capitals on Thursday, where hopes are mostly, if unofficially, pinned on his securing a second term.
While a lot can change before the November 6 vote, and Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will go head to head twice more before then, polling conducted immediately after the debate showed Romney came out overwhelmingly on top.
A flash poll by CNN showed 67 percent of viewers thought Romney had 'won', with just 25 percent for Obama. Intrade, an online prediction market, cut Obama's re-election prospects from 74 percent to 66 percent.
In Europe, where leaders and finance officials have worked closely with the Obama administration over the past 2-1/2 years trying to resolve the euro area debt crisis, there was particular consternation at Romney's singling out of deficit-ridden Spain as a poorly administered economy.
"Romney is making analogies that aren't based on reality," Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told reporters after a meeting of his center-right party.