Could an Obama Win Restore America's Global Image?

Elsewhere in Latin America, tattered relationships and perceptions of the United States are opening to revision in light of a potential Obama presidency.

"The Cuban people are waiting in trepidation, hoping very much that Obama will win the election," said Osmel Prieto Frometa, who owns a guest house in Baracoa, Cuba. "Obama is a beacon of hope for us."

Obama has vowed to normalize U.S.-Cuban relations in exchange for steps toward political reform.

"With Obama, things will change," Frometa said. "I'm sure he will lift the embargo. Reagan, Bush and McCain are all the same, but Obama is different: He understands Latin Americans because he is black."

High Hopes, Short Honeymoon?

Whoever wins the U.S. election likely faces a honeymoon period of high public opinion, coming in on the heels of an unpopular president. Experts say a McCain win would disappoint legions of Obama fans, who have come to see the candidate as the projection of their diverse hopes and policy goals.

"I think it would be a very deep disappointment," Hokayem, the Abu Dhabi-based political analyst, said. "It will also confirm some of the worst prejudices against the U.S."

But while Obama is the clear global choice, pinning the world's hopes on one man opens the risk of unfulfilled hopes and mismanaged expectations.

"What's going to happen is once he takes office the people like Hugo Chavez are going to stand back and wait," Mexican journalist Cohen said of a potential President Obama. "It's going to be a different thing when he takes office and has to make tough decisions."

Hokayem said, "Who is elected is going to have to do a lot of damage control first and a lot of reassuring.

"Policy will change, but it will not change as drastically as people think. While Obama will have some room for innovation, in other ways he'll be constrained by realities on the ground," he said.

"U.S. foreign policy is more than just the character or the background of the president."

Cao Jun, Ammu Kannampilly, Christel Kucharz, Beth Loyd, Noriko Namiki, Gabriel O'Rorke, Donna Sherrington and Stephanie Sy contributed to this report.

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