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Doubts over Downton drive American voters to polls

Of all the issues confronting American voters on election day it seems none was more important than the future of the top-rating television show Downton Abbey.

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, American fans were expected to turn out in force for President Barck Obama after challenger Mitt Romney threatened to cut funding for the Public Broadcasting Service, which screens the show in the US.

Both presidential candidates, said the Mail, have made “no secret of their fondness for the British country house drama”.

But despite that, Mr Romney has pledged to slash government subsidies to PBS, which the newspaper implies could have a bearing on the future of the show.

 “I Like PBS,” Mr Romney is quoted as saying, “But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

The story triggered a flood of comments from anxious viewers, a tribute to the creative endeavours of a newspaper which knows what people are really passionate about – and it’s not politics.

None of which surprises an American who has been domiciled in New Zealand for the last 40 years.

Associate Professor Stephen Hoadley, an expert on US-NZ relations at Auckland University, is now a naturalised New Zealander, which means he did not vote in the presidential election.

But if he had, he told NBR ONLINE, it would have been for Mr Obama, who he considers to be the better man for the job.

“My personal opinion is that Obama understands the risks better and the current policy mix is the most prudent, even if unexciting.

“Romney’s policies are like Reagan’s and G W Bush’s, and both led to huge deficits and financial mini-crises.”

Asked to identify the key issues the new president must confront he said:

“In foreign policy, maintaining an overall world balance of power while working with allies and friends to deal with regional humanitarian crises and terrorist threats such as Syria, Afghanistan/Pakistan, northern Mali, Iran and North Korea, as well as engaging with China.

“At home, balancing the budget and reducing debt while boosting employment and stimulating more efficient use of finance.”

Dr Hoadley said as far as New Zealand is concerned it does not really matter who becomes president because we are “not a problem for Washington compared to other countries”.

“But Romney might raise defence spending and take a more aggressive line on Iran, China, Russia, North Korea and others, and request a New Zealand contribution or at least an endorsement.

“This would make our middle-road leaders and left-leaning public uneasy.

“Obama’s New Zealand policies are well set in the Wellington and Washington Declarations and the TPP negotiations, so his renewed presidency would make few changes that would affect New Zealand or the South Pacific.”

So whoever becomes president there is not too much for us to worry about if Dr Hoadley’s predictions prove correct.

But who cares?

There is always season three of Downton Abbey to watch on Prime TV on Thursday nights.

rvaughan@nbr.co.nz

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