Emmanuel Macron has a big lead over Marine Le Pen, and will almost certainly win on May 7. But he’s losing the first day of the 13-day sprint that separates the two elections, which leads one to think it’s not entirely impossible he could lose the second, and the third, and then polls show suddenly a significant tightening and who knows what could happen.
After Macron came in first on the first round, he held a dinner for his supporters at La Rotonde, a classy bistro in the 15th. Some of his nuts-and-bolts campaign supporters were invited, but so were a lot of bold-faced names of France’s super-banker/minister set. Jacques Attali was there. Was Dominique Strauss-Khan, or was that just a rumor? It seemed, perhaps, a not terrible gesture, akin to a celebration after winning a pennant, and as some pointed out, at least he didn’t have it at Fouquet’s, the ultimate Paris symbol of ostentatious dining, as Sarkozy did 10 years ago. But Sarkozy had won the actual election, not entry into the second round.
In any case, today’s television images were of Macron not giving his speech to his supporters at his hall, but bouncing between tables inside the plush red walls of La Rotonde. By contrast, Marine Le Pen was out greeting voters in Pas de Calais, walking through a simple market, taking selfies with workers. It produced a telling contrast of visual images, and hardly in Macron’s favor.
Then there is the endorsement dynamic. It doesn’t surprise anyone when Macron receives an endorsement; the establishment is supposed to stick up for its own. President François Hollande, whose approval rating are in single digits, announces his support for Macron. Does this hurt Le Pen? The way the Front National spokespeople jumped at the chance to talk about the endorsement indicates probably not.
But when someone doesn’t endorse, it’s a story. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the left-wing surprise of the campaign, whose success basically destroyed the Socialist Party, made more news than Hollande by not endorsing anyone. Simply refused to say whom he would vote for, whom his followers should vote for. For the French bien-pensant class the non-endorsement was a thing of horror. Twitter irony: someone pointed that the same people who accused Mélenchon of planning to become an economic dictator were tearing out their hair over his refusal to tell people how to vote.
Of course it makes sense that Mélenchon and his supporters would not have any enthusiasm for Macron. Quite a number of people have noted that the main divisions in Western political life are increasingly between nationalists and globalists, not between left and right. Marine Le Pen is clearly making opposition to “savage globalization” a main theme of her campaign; but so it was of Mélenchon, who opposes Brussels, free trade, NATO, and in subtle, politically correct Marxist ways, mass immigration. Quite a few people wondered why Benoît, the candidate of France’s ruling Socialist Party, who finished, pathetically, under 7 percent, was unable to make a common front with Mélenchon: together this score for the real left, if combined, would have easily put them in the second round. The answer is that the two lefts are diametrically opposed to globalization and differ on France’s ties to Europe. Benoît Hamon’s party welcomes it, Mélenchon’s opposes. The Socialist Party may implode over Hamon’s poor performance, the high fliers in it moving on to Macronism.
What of the “right”—François Fillon’s center-right “Republicans”? It’s curious that Fillon was so badly damaged by a financial scandal of the sort that are fairly common in France politics. In departing—and this afternoon Fillon more or less bowed out of his public role in the party—Fillon slammed Le Pen and promised to vote for Macron. But it’s not clear how many Republican voters will follow his lead. A Republican deputy, George Fenech, was on TV saying that his voters were telling him they would either abstain or vote for Marine Le Pen, and he was inclined to listen to his voters. Unlikely he is alone among rank-and-file Republican elected officials.
To close, Diana Johnstone, a veteran left-of-center American journalist in Paris, has produced a devastating portrait of Macron, the man who seemed to come from nowhere. That’s another large contrast between Macron and Le Pen. Everyone knows where Marine Le Pen comes from. Many deplore it, and for some the stigma of her origins put her beyond any possible redemption. But Emmanuel Macron is a genuine man of mystery.