News of the Republican victory in the 2014 midterm elections wasn’t front page news just in the United States. The websites of major newspapers the world over carried the story prominently, often as the main item on the homepage, using language that described the Republican surge as an historical moment.
At midnight New York time, after Republican control of the Senate had become official, a survey of some of the most widely read international newspapers showed that the world was watching America closely – and that international commentators were framing the night as a big defeat for president Barack Obama.
Spain’s El País, renowned in the Spanish-speaking world for the depth of its foreign coverage, dedicated much of its homepage to special coverage of the election. “Republicans gain in the Senate the biggest victory of the Obama era,” said the Madrid-based daily. In a summary on the homepage, El País attributed the Republican triumph to “the economic situation rather than the ballast of an unpopular Obama.”
Another quality European daily, Paris-based Le Monde, opted for a large image of a man in a cowboy hat with the headline “Republicans win the majority in the American Senate,” noting in the summary that “Obama’s adversaries (…) became the majority in both chambers of Congress.”
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, an authoritative, moderate daily, also dedicated the entire upper part of its homepage to the midterms, playing the headline very straightforward: “Republicans take over the majority in the Senate.”
The headline from Rome-based, left-leaning daily La Repubblica reflected the more emotional style of coverage favored by most Italian newspapers. “The United States slaps Obama, Republicans control House and Senate,” read the headline. A comment by the American author of Italian origin Alexander Stille, who teaches at New York’s Columbia University, was titled simply “New Populism,” leaving little doubt as to what a newspaper often considered the expression of Italy’s liberal elite thought of the Republican triumph.
On the opposite side of the European political spectrum, the conservative-leaning Times of London reversed the point of view and looked at the other side’s defeat, noting with a touch of apparent glee that “Clintons fail to save Democrats at polls” (using a cropped version of the same cowboy-hat photo that appeared in Le Monde.)
Elsewhere, newspapers looked at connections between their own nation’s agendas and the midterm results. China’s People’s Daily, controlled by the Communist Party, fairly buried a reference to the election in its opinion section on the homepage, with the headline “Midterm result will further thwart Obama” while dedicating far more space to a story that focused on the upcoming meeting between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Obama.
The Times of India dutifully noted on its homepage that Republicans had won the Senate and were on their way to a larger House majority, but focused on a local angle: the re-election of Nikki Haley, who is of Indian origin, as governor of South Carolina.
Similarly, in Brazil, a nation whose rapid economic ascent has produced closer and closer ties with the United States, the Folha de São Paulo, the largest daily in the country’s biggest city, went for the what’s-in-it-for-us angle – and found that the midterms may be good news. “Democratic defeat may benefit Brazil,” said a headline on the homepage. (How? In short, because Republicans might be more wiling than Democrats to pass free-trade legislation that would help Brazilian exports to the world’s biggest economy.)