Hola, Denver; Guten Tag, Twin Cities

Hundreds of diplomats will descend on Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul this summer for the national political conventions, the latest reflection of the spectacular attention this year’s presidential race is getting overseas.

American elections always attract international attention, given the impact of U.S. foreign policy on the rest of the world, but the battle between Sens. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: Fox News viewers 'perceive a different reality' than other Americans Police investigating death of TV anchor who uncovered Clinton tarmac meeting as suicide Ending the same-sex marriage wars MORE (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) appears to have captivated audiences in Europe, Asia and Latin America even more than in the past, embassy sources said.


“First of all, you have both parties choosing their nominee from scratch,” said Taisuke Mibae, a counselor at the Japanese embassy. “In addition, the Democratic nominee will be either a woman or an African-American. It’s historic.”

Five hundred officials have already responded to invitations from the National Democratic Institute to attend NDI events at the Aug. 25-29 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“The ratio of acceptances to invitations is much greater,” said Ken Wollack, NDI’s president. This year’s campaigns “have been a staple of news overseas,” Wollack said. “There’s this insatiable appetite for political news” from the U.S.

For diplomats and foreign officials, the political conventions provide a unique window into the American political system. It’s a time to learn the intricacies of how the U.S. president is selected, as well as a chance to get a bird’s-eye view of the next president’s stand on foreign policy.

Since virtually every important player in the U.S. political scene will also be on hand in Denver and the Twin Cities this summer, it’s also a way for diplomats to meet future contacts.

“Obviously, you meet a lot of people in terms of networking and understanding the process, which is very different from what we have in France,” said Antoine Michon, a counselor at the French embassy who plans to attend both conventions. “Also, you get a good sense of the political situation.”

Afghanistan Ambassador Said Jawad will attend the Democratic convention in Denver and hopes to attend the Republican convention a week later, although an embassy press officer said a scheduling conflict may interfere. “He wants to be on hand to talk to the key people” who will be helping Afghanistan continue its transition from Taliban rule, the press officer said.

Not everyone gets to go. The State Department sends “dip notes” with information on the conventions to most foreign embassies, but a “rogue list” of nations, such as North Korea, are excluded. Most countries, including China, however, are invited.

NDI, a democracy-building group established in the mid-1980s, has conducted broad programs for the Democratic convention since 1988. It expects as many as 100 countries to be represented.

Wollack said his group, which is still planning its program for Denver, is expecting higher attendance at this year’s Democratic convention, but that limitations will have to be imposed because of hotel space.

The Republican Party works with the State Department in inviting foreign embassies to its convention. The International Republican Institute, launched alongside the NDI in the mid-’80s, plans a panel of foreign policy experts for diplomats attending the convention, but doesn’t have the week of events the NDI normally plans.

Members of political parties on the left and right are invited to the conventions. Wollack said he expected several heads of state to attend this year’s convention in Denver.

At the 2004 Democratic convention, officials listened to Rand BeersRand BeersNational security figures urge Trump to disclose foreign business ties DNC creates cybersecurity board The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, the national security adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John KerryJohn KerryIn Europe, Biden seeks to reassert U.S. climate leadership Climate progressives launch first action against Biden amid growing frustration What US policymakers can glean from Iceland's clean energy evolution MORE (Mass.). They also heard former officials such as President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMonica Lewinsky signs production deal with 20th TV Police investigating death of TV anchor who uncovered Clinton tarmac meeting as suicide It's not just Manchin: No electoral mandate stalls Democrats' leftist agenda MORE discuss international affairs, and were able to hear from key congressional leaders such as then-House Minority Whip (and current Majority Leader) Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

NDI’s programs also focus on explaining the complicated U.S. system of pledged delegates, superdelegates, caucuses and primaries to a foreign audience.

Anthony Smallwood, the head of the European Commission’s public diplomacy branch in Washington, said Europeans following this year’s election can pick up on techniques that might come into play in future European campaigns.

“We Europeans always look to the process in America because, to some extent, the techniques used in American elections are techniques that find their way in one way or another across the Atlantic,” Smallwood said.

“Given that we share the largest trading relationship in the world, every U.S. election is important to Canada,” said an official with the Canadian embassy, which expects to send a number of diplomats to both conventions.