Sunday, April 22, 2012

Further Thoughts

Sarkozy has called for three debates in the next two weeks instead of one. He clearly has confidence in his ability to put Hollande's back to the wall. He looked more confident than Hollande, and his supporters shouted "On a gagné," even though this is the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic that a sitting president has lost the first round. Hollande made the Left's best score since '88, but the Left also came in first in '95 and then lost in the second round (although, as Jospin noted, that was after 14 years of Mitterrand, and the right-wing vote was divided between two candidates in the first round).

Le Pen declared that her ambition is to marginalize the UMP and make her party the major party of the opposition, and she is within striking distance of that goal. Her strategy was obviously more successful than the polls predicted, and she has every reason to continue her anti-Europe, anti-globalization, anti-euro, pro-protectionist, anti-Islamic line. How will Sarkozy try to counter this? Perhaps by playing up the anti-Europe rhetoric he has adopted, hypocritically in my view, over the past few months.

I had thought that this election would be won in the center, and Hollande's centrist strategy was successful enough, but the actual center, represented by Bayrou, is much diminished. Where will Hollande's reserve votes come from? Mélenchon, Arthaud, Joly, and Bayrou aren't quite enough. How many Le Pen voters will he get? I am no longer sure what to believe about the Le Pen vote. The pollsters clearly don't have a good handle on it, so their estimates of le report des voix have to be eyed skeptically.

In short, I think this election is far from over. Hollande will have to define himself more clearly, or will be forced to by Sarkozy, and what effect that will have on both those who backed him in round 1 and those who didn't but who must be enlisted for round 2 remains to be seen. Everything is in play, and I'm frankly worried that I'm not going to like either the direction the campaign takes or the outcome.

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