François Hollande is the frontrunner, and conventional wisdom has it that frontrunners play it safe. François Hollande is playing it safe. The UMP wants to portray him as a profligate spender, so he will minutely calibrate every proposal. To finance the return to a legal retirement age of 60 for those who begin work early enough to have accumulated the necessary number of quarters by then, he will raise the CSG by 0.1 percentage points in each year of his quinquennat. He has baked in a growth estimate of only 0.5% in the first year. He will inscribe laïcité in the Constitution, but only within the terms of the existing 1905 law and without altering the existing exceptions of Alsace and Lorraine.
It's a program to make an accountant smile, but it isn't going to get anyone's pulse racing. And that's just the way Hollande wants it. Pulses are already racing, he figures, at the prospect of dumping Sarkozy, and that will be all it takes. He may be right, but such a program will make for the dullest of campaigns, and it will be hard to pivot to anything more exciting should his poll numbers begin to fall. But the pressure of a campaign strips candidates to their innate character, and caution seems to be the essence of François Hollande. There are worse qualities for a president, I suppose, at least in many historical circumstances. I wonder about the present circumstances, though, and I wonder about Hollande.