Russians keep a watchful eye on the 2008 U.S. presidential race

The swearing in of the new Russian President next month will be followed a few months later by the inauguration of the next U.S. president. The 2008 U.S. presidential race, the most exciting in decades, is being watched closely in Russia.

Nikolay Petrov from the Carnegie Centre in Moscow says interest in the American election in Russia is growing and coverage in the press “is huge”.

But Russians aren’t just watching from a distance, they are getting involved.

Daria Konovalova and her colleagues have created Obama.Ru, an independent website where Russians can learn about the policies and promises of their favourite candidate.

“He has a great chance of winning and we thought he was an interesting person and people should know more about him,” Konovalova says.

Visitors to the site can also take part in a poll, where so far Obama enjoys an overwhelming lead.

“He’s a newcomer, a pretty attractive person, this is something very new to American politics,” Nikolay Petrov says.

And while Hillary may not be new to politics, she has some committed fans here in Moscow.

Irina Cherkasova has been following Clinton’s career since her husband was in the White House. She has created the Russian LiveJournal community “Rodham” about her campaign. And although a supporter Irina says Hillary has made some mistakes.

“I think she’s hurt her chances of winning.  Sometimes it’s better for a woman like her to keep quiet cause her words can get her into trouble, which is exactly what happened recently,” Cherkasova said.

Overall, Democrats seem to be more attractive to Russians in this election. But how important is the Party factor?

According to the Russian public opinion research centre (VCIOM), 19% of the public think a Democratic presidential candidate is more likely to work co-operatively with Russia. Whereas only 4% say a Republican candidate would.

But the largest number says it doesn’t make a difference which party a candidate comes from.

However, Republicans tend to be less popular among Russians. John McCain, who’s already won the Republican nomination, is known in Moscow for his anti-Russian rhetoric.

But some don’t take his words too seriously. After all, he did once says Vladimir Putin was the President of Germany. Political analyst Aleksandr Nagorny thinks his Presidency would be in Russia’s best interest.

“He proclaims that he will stay in Iraq. That means oil prices will remain high and that is the basis of Russian economics. Isn’t that enough for us to support John McCain?” Nagorny asks.

Enough or not, Russians have different reasons for choosing one candidate over another.

And even though Russians can’t influence the outcome of the election, more and more of them are expected to tune in to it as the big day approaches.