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we have a configuration were 4 candidates have a real chance of getting to the second round. absolutely. I wouldn't be surprised by any of the top four getting through.

Why? First of all, from the point of view of both method and history, French polls are really unreliable for the first round of a presidential election. Historically, the first-round results in every presidential election going back 20 years were to a lesser or greater degree a stunner: Mitterand's strong first-round showing (well ahead of both Chirac and Barre) in 88, Jospin ahead and Chirac barely qualifying in 95, and of course 2002. Methodologically, the use of "reprsentative samples" that are adjusted (instead of random sample) makes these really unreliable (and do not allow for calculation of margin of error). A great story in Le Monde 2 days ago pointed out that in raw data, LePen draws about 6% and Royal is consistently ahead, but the forumlae for "redressement" are what keeps putting Sarkozy out front. And look at today's #s: CSA has Royal inching up on Sarko and Bayrou falling back, another (Ifop?) has Bayrou almost even with Royal.

I do think the "Le Pen" effect might be less this time, only because there is less stigma, but there is a big question of whether or not the roughly 6% of the electorate that describes itself as "close" to the FN but is supporting Sarkozy in polls will stay there. Sarkozy is pushing hard, hard for those voters -- look at his final, extended spot which is all about how immigrants need to love France (by the way all the spots are available on dailymotion; check out www.dailymotion.com/davidBRUEL).

But, to return to the original post, it is very important to keep in mind -- and often ignored by the foreign press -- that this is the 2nd campaign that LePen has had very little to say about immigration. His ads are terrifyingly terrific -- one in which he capitalizes on reports of the government manipulating unemployment figures to claim to incarnate truth; another in which he defends French agriculture from the EU; and another in which he mocks Sarkozy and Royal for "running behind him" in their attempt to make use of the flag to show their patriotism.  Very few of LePen's voters vote for him because of his position on immigration; indeed, its only by playing down the "France aux francais" aspect (which remains implicit) that he moved from his presumed 10-12% ceiling. A lot of LePen's appeal is his willingness to shock the press, by saying things like calling Royal's children "bastards", that give him the aura of a straight-shooter.

Finally, the "new voter" and "woman" points are, based on recent American electoral history, fools gold; newly registered voters tend to vote in much lower proportion than the rest of the electorate, and only when the issue environment warrants it do center-right women cross over to vote for a center-left female candidate. The "woman" factor usually manifests itself earlier, when it makes it harder for opponents to attack a woman without seeming over the top, a temptation and trap that to this point Sarkozy has, astonishingly and frustratingly for the PS, avoided.

Looking forward to this week, I will be eager to see how Rocard's call for a PS/UMP alliance plays out. I think it is too late to pull it together (but maybe not) and I fear that PS leaders, sensing Royal's demise, may prefer to have the "old house" to fight for afterwards than create the "big bang" that would result from such an alliance. But, if it were to work out in any way (and it would necessarily result from a Bayrou-Sarkozy 2nd round), it will be historic because it would mean the end of the PCF -- whom the PS would abandon for the legislatives, deprving the Communists of the seats they need to form a group and thus of their primary source of funding at the national level.

What do others think?

by desmoulins (gsb6@lycos.com) on Sun Apr 15th, 2007 at 12:07:55 AM EST
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