WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, who has struggled to advance his vision for economic renewal at home, will take his pitch overseas this week to an audience of world leaders who could prove equally skeptical of his message at a time of deepening global anxiety.
"It's very hard for us to preach the economic gospel to Europe when they watched our debt-ceiling debate here and our (credit-rating) downgrade," said Heather Conley, director of European programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Obama will depart Wednesday for a two-day trip to Cannes, France, where the heads of the world's 20 largest economies will gather for the Group of 20 summit. Organizers said the meetings will focus on how to contain Europe's burgeoning debt crisis while also trying to forge consensus on a path to stimulating worldwide economic growth, even as many countries, including the United States, wrestle with painful budget cuts.
The trip, the first for Obama outside the United States since he attended a smaller summit in France in the spring, could provide a crucial test of whether his political problems at home have compromised his influence abroad.
In the five months since the last global summit, Obama has focused on the domestic economy, fighting with Congress over ways to reduce the deficit and criss-crossing the nation to promote his $447 billion American Jobs Act, which remains stalled on Capitol Hill.
At a series of bilateral meetings in France, the president is expected to lay out his growth proposals: a mix of immediate spending to create jobs and longer-term fiscal discipline to reduce the U.S. deficit.
But he faces a tough challenge after criticizing Europe's handling of its debt crisis. During a town-hall-style event in Mountain View, Calif., last month, Obama said the Europeans were "scaring the world."
European leaders struck back, telling administration officials to butt out and focus on handling their own fiscal problems.
In an op-ed in the Financial Times last week, Obama vowed that the United States, as the world's largest economy, "will continue to lead."