And that's where some argue that Obama benefits. European love for America's first black president has barely diminished since 2008. Seventy-five percent of Europe says it would vote for Obama, according to a poll released last month by the German Marshall Fund and the Italian foundation Compagnia di San Paolo. Romney fails to hit double digits.
A popular American president, suggests Kirkegaard, might have more influence in Europe than an unpopular one. "A Vice President Ryan describing the economy to Europe," Kirkegaard quipped, "would meet with a very skeptical audience."
But if the debt crisis has been largely seen in the United States as an economic challenge, most Europeans now would argue it is now a political problem. Can German Chancellor Angela Merkel ease the draconian austerity measures the EU imposed on Greece when she is fighting for reelection amid a voting public that rejects conciliation? How much austerity can Greek Prime Minster Antonis Samaras push onto his public when youth unemployment is already over 50 percent?
This is a "transformative moment" in both the United States and Europe, said Heather Conley, a former deputy assistant secretary of state who oversaw bilateral relations in northern and central Europe during the Bush administration. In her view, it's time to strengthen the transatlantic relationship rather than squabble over it. "This is the moment we really need to think about bigger, bolder thoughts about the political relationship, not the tactical thoughts about the economic relationship," said Conley, who is currently the director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
But both campaigns have focused mostly on the economics of Europe -- rather than the politics. And both have used Europe as a foil. Romney threatens a Greek-style future if Obama's level of government spending continues, while Obama ties Romney's economic plan to Greece's soaring unemployment and increasing inability to provide basic requirements.
The curtains have not drawn on the Greek tragedy currently unfolding in Athens -- and the European threat to the global economy remains high. If the United States has any hope in finding a stable economic path within its own shores, the next administration will have to figure out a way out of the Eurozone debt crisis. Maybe it's time they started talking about it.