I, along with many other analysts, have interpreted the Montebourg vote as a sign of ideological discontent, a protest from the left wing of the Socialist Party. But is this correct? Some observers, including François Hollande, suggest that the Montebourg vote was primarily an endorsement of Montebourg's personality, his good debate performance, his polished rhetoric, etc. This may be. I didn't see enough of the debates to assess how strong his performance was, but the press was certainly favorable. No doubt the truth is a mixture of both interpretations.
Funny. I met Montebourg a couple of years ago, even had dinner with him. I found him quite charming, a good conversationalist, but not terribly well-versed in economic policy issues. Indeed, having spent some time with Ségolène Royal as well, I thought that, despite her reputation as a relative lightweight, she had actually spent more time thinking about economic policy than Montebourg, or at least had been better briefed. A colleague and I left the Montebourg dinner together. As we walked out into the cold Beacon Hill air, we turned to each other and said simultaneously, "Awfully nice guy, but needs work if he's going to run for president." Just goes to show you what informed opinion is worth. Democratic politics is full of imponderables.