I wrote in today’s FT about the split in the Tory party between those support Mitt Romney, and think the party should generally support the Republicans, and those who see Barack Obama as the kind of popular centrist David Cameron should be.
But who does the PM himself back? It was suggested in 2008 that he was backing John McCain for the presidency in that year, after praising the Republican’s courage in refusing to advocating protectionist policies. Cameron was certainly delighted when McCain addressed the Tory party conference in 2006, and the PM’s advisers say the two men got on well.
But Cameron’s friends say that privately, he actually backed Obama in 2008. Certainly some around him did: as Nick Boles, the Cameroon Tory backbencher puts it:
For a Conservative who believes in the NHS there is nothing inconsistent in believing in a Democrat who has taken a step towards universal healthcare.
What about this time around? Would he prefer Barack Obama, with whom he has managed to strike up some rapport (especially during the pally trip to Washington in March), or the more Atlanticist and right-wing Mitt Romney?
Number 10 officials insist he remains entirely neutral (as of course they would). That may have changed today after Romney managed to make something of a hash of his visit to the UK. But one cabinet minister explains that while Cameron’s natural sympathies may lie with Obama, his calculation is actually more tactical than that:
In some ways, Mitt Romney would be more friendly as he is keen to demonstrate himself as a friend of the UK. But in another way, it is easier to be close to the Americans when a Democrat is in the White House, because it doesn’t get the Europeans’ backs up quite so much.