Friday, March 17, 2017

Macron as Debater

I've been worrying here and elsewhere about how Macron will perform in head-to-head debate with Marine Le Pen. Here's a sample of his style, albeit on a panel where everyone is more or less in agreement on the EU, which will certainly be a major bone of contention between EM and MLP:




Bottom line: he's good, sometimes too technical, but capable of pith, charm, and wit.

A Two-Person Race?

Has the dust finally begun to settle? We won't really know until next week's televised debate, but there are signs that the race is settling into a two-person contest. For instance, Florian Philippot was a guest the other day on Les Grandes Gueules (I know I shouldn't listen to trash radio, but there is nothing better than les GG to while away the time a traffic jam), and he concentrated all his fire on Macron. When asked about the expulsion of a Holocaust-denier who headed the Nice chapter of the FN until a few days ago, Philippot's answer, brazen beyond belief, was to suggest that if journalists with hidden cameras followed Macron around into the back rooms he frequents, they'd uncover equally scandalous things. It's a fascinating ploy. To respond to the charge that you're harboring neo-Nazis in your midst, you imply that someone else also has things to hide, and immediately one begins to speculate about what those things might be. You do the propaganda work yourself. Philippot doesn't have to make any charges or offer any proof. He just hints.

The polls continue to point in the same direction: Macron consolidating his no. 2 position and perhaps even closing in on no. 1, Le Pen holding her own, Fillon losing ground as his scandals thicken around him (today we learned that the secret admirer who paid for his suits was Robert Bourgi, a lawyer with connections to African heads of state), and the divided left going nowhere (together Mélenchon and Hamon now add up to less than Macron).

Since 2007, when there was briefly talk of a Royal-Bayrou tandem, I have felt that a coalition of center-left and center-right could win. Most people I talked to said no, impossible, the center never wins in France. But this year a strange concatenation of circumstances--Juppé's elimination, Macron's extra-party run, the gauchisation of the PS primary in reaction against Valls, Bayrou's endorsement of Macron, and Fillon's unexpected scandal--have made possible a unique natural experiment. It seems that a centrist candidate might indeed win. The question will then become whether he can govern.