Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Paving, seems like you're trying to graft American politics onto the French election and while I see your points, I don't think the categories are the same. I don't claim to know enough to contradict you but here are few points that are, to my understanding, very different from the assumptions you're making

-Jospins' underperformance in 02 was in part due to a high rate of abstention in Paris, esp among professionals , since the election was held the weekend of a school vacation (and absentee balloting is very difficult). So its not as if Jospin lost because he didn't do was well in "the rurals." And Paris is not comparable to say New York; its by no means overwhelmingly PS. Paris has strongholds for the left and the left has gained there tremendously in the last 10-15 years but the UMP and the FN both get a lot of votes in Paris and environs.

-its inaccurate to equate "the provinces" with "rural" and even more inaccurate to equate FN support with "rural" voters. Very little support for the FN in "petites communes" in fact. Political allegiance of these towns varies greatly from region to region, but almost nowhere do small towns support the FN.

-its pretty clear that Bayrou is drawing from both "right" and "left" voters but his recent surge has come a lot from center-left voters (teachers, educated professionals) and a lot from what you're calling "rural" voters.

-Royal's "base" is by no means solid, if by "base" you mean industrial working-class voters, the traditional socialist base, who more or less have abandoned the PS since the 80s, esp after the 35 hours legilsation. The FN has been pushing hard for these voters (Le Pen's "convention" in Lille sounded like a Communist rally) as has Sarkozy ("the value of work...")

-Moreover, other traditional PS constituencies -- civil servants and esp teachers -- for instance seem to be moving to Bayrou. There's actually very little natural "base" for the PS which is the problem

-Sarkozy's "base" is by no means eroding to Bayrou. Sarkoyz's "base" of support is pretty solid, which is why Sarkozy's people keep saying Bayrou is Royal's problem. They're right on that count but what they worry about is that he might finish ahead of her and be able to run as a "rassambleur," unifying left and center.

My point is only that this isn't Kerry all over again. Its something else entirely.

by desmoulins (gsb6@lycos.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 06:20:24 AM EST
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One other very important point to add, Paving. By no means is the FN electorate merely voting on "immigration" and "racism"; indeed, the FN has very much played down these themes since the mid-90s. This year they even have a poster showing a young woman with a dark complexion which appeals to Islamic immigrants by attacking the secularism and moral breakdown.

Its one reason that Sarkozy is being so explicit about it; he thinks he can pick up single-issue anti-immigrant voters.

The FN's electorate in 02 was a real cross-section and continues to be.

by desmoulins (gsb6@lycos.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 06:22:59 AM EST
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I think you underrate the wariness by which Sarkozy is viewed by a large part of the electorate. His personal stats are poor. If there is a credible reformist opponent, he loses - or at least he is great danger of doing so. I think thats what Paving's point about Bayrou is - he's saying to the fuck you voters and the middle class social libs - hey I'm like Sarko, but without the bad stuff. In that he's saying to the first crowd, "look I'm not in with big business, I'm a  "man of the people" (farmer, Catholic, far from Paris), and to the second group, he's saying "I'm not a thug who hates dark people"

Check out the latest poll via LeMonde, but carried out for LeFig. Sarko loses 4 points - he's now at 27, Royal at 25.5, Bayrou at 23.

Also consider - who is a more natural candidate for the Gaullist traditionalists around Chirac and DeVillepin? Are they all going to come out for Sarko? Even in public? (to say nothing of the voting booth). Can you honestly say that Chirac et al would pull the lever for Sarko? I don't think we can make that assumption.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:57:43 PM EST
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Do you have a link for Sarkozy's "personal stats"? I'm not questioning your point, but I'd be interested to see data on his personal popularity.
by desmoulins (gsb6@lycos.com) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 01:04:32 AM EST
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This is from June 2006, but I doubt he's done much to make people think differently of him one way or another since this poll. Its been pretty well known he's been running since 2004 and he's been arguably the most high profile politician in France in that time frame.

Anyway, here are the numbers from a poll conducted on June 14-15 2006:

Diriez-vous de Nicolas Sarkozy qu'il vous rassure ou qu'il vous inquiète ?

Il vous rassure: 36%

Il vous inquiete: 55%

Sans Opinion: 9%

Et diriez-vous de Nicolas Sarkozy qu'il est séduisant ou qu'il n'est pas séduisant ?

Il est seduissant: 39%

Il n'est pas seduisant: 61%

IMO, those are bad numbers. They don't matter that much for those who are committed believers in his policies. But, as a political consultant, I see numbers like that and I get worried. They'll kill you with swing voters who don't necessarily share your policy/ideological cast and who are more influenced by the individual as a person.

Its one of the reasons, retrospectively, it was obvious John Kerry was going to lose in '04 by late August/early September. His "personals" were negative, even if Bush did not have strong performance marks either. The key was that the alternative was made to look unacceptable to the American voters.

As an outsider, having seen polls like this about Sarkozy, I've always felt he was vulnerable to an alternative the FRench voting public found "credible."

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 01:48:43 AM EST
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Interesting -- but its precisely because I think he has been putting forward a new face since January that I think he's in a lot stronger position. THat poll was taken <6 months after the "Karcher" and "racaille" comments got a lot of press -- since January, he's used very moderate language and changed his self-presentation a lot to tone down his rough edges.

Look, I hope you're right, but when I compare him on tv to Royal, and when I read about or talk to people about the election, I fear the worst.

by desmoulins (gsb6@lycos.com) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 02:14:10 AM EST
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I think she can't win.

I think Bayrou is a real problem for Sarko, however.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 02:27:44 AM EST
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With his "ministry for immigration" proposal and his latest comment, apparently, yesterday evening on Canal Plus, that immigrants were "draining our social security coffers" (I have this second hand for now, did not watch it myself).

See the speech that started this thread as well. He has veered sharply right - towards the nasty kind.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 04:32:15 AM EST
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Yes, the question is why? Is it because LePen claims to have his 500 signatures and Sarkozy wants to fight LePen for votes in the first round or (and not necessarily a separate strategy) is it because he thinks it'll be Bayrou and the way to beat him is to, as it were, mobilize the right-wing base in the 2nd round?
by desmoulins (gsb6@lycos.com) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 01:30:56 PM EST
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