The European mess of high debt, high borrowing rates and high unemployment poses huge spillover risks to the American economy and Obama's political future.
The U.S. economy is in a tentative recovery amid a slump in hiring and indications that the housing market is healing. Those mixed signals have muddled Obama's re-election prospects as challenger Mitt Romney mounts a campaign singularly focused on the state of the U.S. economy.
All sides at the G-20 summit seemed intent on sending confident signals to jittery markets and unhappy electorates.
Underscoring the stakes, Obama broke from the main summit Tuesday for a brief meeting with leaders from Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the European Union.
Despite the words of unity, European leaders showed signs that they have heard enough about their troubles, particularly from Americans. Memories linger of the 2008 financial crash that was borne in the United States and destroyed jobs and wealth.
"The eurozone has a serious problem, but it is certainly not the only imbalance in the world economy," Italian Prime Minster Mario Monti said Tuesday. He said the United States' own financial problems were mentioned in G-20 talks "by almost everybody, including President Obama."
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso took an aggressive tone with reporters on Monday, also pointing some blame at North America and saying, "Frankly we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy."