LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday won the less than resounding backing of European newspapers, which concluded he had done just about enough to deserve re-election in preference to a flip-flopping Republican challenger.
Support for the incumbent was often based more on what he had avoided - an economic depression in America - than on his achievements in office.
London's Financial Times saw little inspiration in Obama's 2012 campaign, a stark contrast to the triumph of 2008 that saw him elected the first black president of the United States.
"In a risk-averse campaign dominated by political consultants, both men have displayed a poverty of ambition," the newspaper said.
The Times of London said Obama had run a tired campaign and it was hard to discern any appetite for a second term, while Romney had proved himself an able and credible candidate.
"President Obama has lost the campaign and his record has many holes," The Times said. "But he has done enough to earn a second term."
Britain's Guardian could manage little enthusiasm for the president four years after his election in a "jaw-dropping, almost redemptive, American moment".
"The record is certainly not perfect but he has done about as well as anyone could reasonably expect," the left-leaning newspaper said in an editorial.
In France, Le Monde also offered faint praise in its endorsement, calling the president "not always brilliant, but solid".
Spain's El Pais backed Obama for his ideals and sense of direction. In a country where the euro zone crisis has meant harsh austerity policies, Romney's spending cuts did not appeal to the left-leaning paper.
In Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse as the euro crisis unfolds, there was critical examination of conditions in the United States. The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel has on its cover a cartoon of Uncle Sam with a thermometer in his mouth and the headline "The American Patient".
Handelsblatt, the conservative business daily, said that whoever wins on Tuesday would have to take action on the budget deficit and public debt.
"Get on a diet, America," the paper said.
An opinion poll taken in northern Europe last week showed more than 90 percent support for Obama, on a continent where the political mainstream often leans to the left of the United States.
Romney, far less well-known in Europe, is seen as too right-wing by many. But he did win the cautious backing of Switzerland's Neue Zuercher Zeitung, which saw him as more likely than Obama to break the "reform logjam" in Washington.
Reporting by Reuters European bureaux; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Peter Graff