Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hollande's Summation, Quite Good

This summation by Hollande was quite good:


Debate Scoring

I'm in the throes of last-minute travel preparations, but I did have time to scan the post-debate press, and the consensus seems to be, as I suggested earlier, that Hollande did "well enough." For Le Monde, he began the favorite and remains the favorite. He "never allowed himself to be dominated by Nicolas Sarkozy."

I will be incommunicado for most of tomorrow, unless I find a few minutes to blog at the airport gate. I'll be back in touch when I resurface in Palo Alto. Meanwhile, keep the comments coming.

An Observation by Bernard Girard on the FN Vote

I'll quote this post in full:

Dans une chronique sur le vote FN dans le Gard que j'ai donnée hier sur AligreFM (et dont on peut trouver le script ici), je notais que les villes du Gard qui ont mis Marine Le Pen en tête n'ont en général pas de lycée. J'ai voulu vérifier cela sur la Moselle, et l'on retrouve le même phénomène. Sur les 29 communes du département qui accueillent un ou plusieurs lycées, 4 seulement ont mis Marine Le Pen en tete. 11 ont choisi Nicolas Sarkozy et les 14 autres ont, dans un département très à droite, mis en tête François Hollande.
On peut naturellement attribuer ces résultats contrastés à l'effet taille, les villes les plus importantes, dans lesquelles on trouve les lycées, votant le plus souvent à gauche. Mais l'exemple du Gard suggère un complément d'explication : la présence d'un lycée dans une commune donne aux jeunes, à leur famille, à leurs proches, un objectif, le baccalauréat, un sens à la réussite scolaire et des perspectives : aller à l'université… toutes choses qui manquent dans la plupart de ces communes qui votent Marine Le Pen. Ce qui va bien avec ce trait des électeurs du FN que signale Nona Meyer : leur absence de diplômes.

So?

Despite intermittent connection problems, I saw enough of the great debate to get the flavor. Hollande did well enough, I thought, and Sarkozy was unable to wipe the sneer from his face. So as far as I'm concerned, we remain at the status quo ante, which is Hollande up by 6. Anybody see it differently?

And what happened to Pujadas and Ferrari? Barbie and Ken might as well have been actual dolls instead of doll look-alikes. They neither moderated, directed, nor civilized the debate. On the whole, it was as disappointing as the rest of the campaign, and if I have to hear Sarkozy say one more time "folie dépensière" or "mensonge," I think I'll scream.

Longuet Opens the Door to "Discussion" with Le Pen

Defense minister Gérard Longuet, whose youthful involvement with the extreme right is no secret, said yesterday that Marine Le Pen, unlike her father, was a person one could "talk to" without sacrificing one's honor:

Et ce n’est pas Gérard Longuet qui lui donnerait tort. Dans un entretien à paraître cette semaine dans Minute, le ministre de la défense et ancien membre du groupuscule d’extrême droite Occident estime qu’on peut « parler » avec Marine Le Pen. Voire se réjouit d’avoir une interlocutrice qui n’a pas été condamnée plusieurs fois pour injures à caractère raciste, comme son père : « Il sera désormais possible de parler de sujets difficiles avec un interlocuteur qui n'est pas bienveillant mais qui, au moins, n'est pas disqualifié. Il n'y a pas, à ce jour, de déclarations funestes de Marine Le Pen ou alors j'attends qu'on me les montre. »
This may not be the official UMP position on Le Pen, but it was clearly intended as a trial balloon. Longuet was immediately disavowed by Rama Yade, among others. But the Right has discovered that, like it or not, there will be a Le Pen in its future, and it is trying to figure out how to deal with the new reality. It's really a shame that Sarkozy's one great accomplishment--the clear defeat he inflicted on Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2007--has come undone in the general ruin of his presidency.

The Great Debate

Fortunately, I am home for a one-day respite from my travels and will be able to watch tonight's great debate from the comfort of my easy chair. Clearly, this is Sarkozy's last chance, and I expect him to pull out all the stops. What line will he take? Unlike 2007, when he was able to lay back and let Ségolène Royal try to bring the fight to him, this year he will be on the attack, trying to shake Hollande from the vagueness of his front-running campaign. He will no doubt try to demonstrate that the Socialist's budgetary arithmetic doesn't add up, although such arguments tend to fall flat in televised debate. He may attempt some low blows, as he did in his confrontation with Fabius, quoting some rather disobliging characterizations of the "old Hollande" by fellow Socialists. He may go after corruption in the PS, about which Hollande did little. He may point to Hollande's lack of ministerial experience and to the lack of confidence in him implied by his never having been chosen to hold a portfolio when the PS was in power.

But will any of this impress voters who, while they may hold little affection for Hollande, have come to know Sarkozy well and dislike him intensely? Any undecided voters who bother to watch will no doubt be focusing on Hollande's performance more than Sarkozy's. And Hollande will not need to do much: avoid major gaffes, appear knowledgeable, stay calm, and perhaps reveal flashes of the wit that served him well as First Secretary, though he may prefer to stick with gravitas and avoid the rapier thrusts that can sometimes lead into temptation and therefore a possible blunder. Will he attack Sarkozy? Will he go after allegations of corruption in high places (from the Bettencourt Affair to Karachigate and now Libyagate, where the evidence is too murky to be really telling)? We shall see.

In the end, it would be remarkable if the debate produced more than a 2-point swing for either candidate, and 2 points is far less than Sarkozy needs--if the polls are accurate. I italicize this caveat, because I think the Le Pen vote is a large imponderable. Many of her 17.9% may be making up their minds at the last minute and/or not telling pollsters what they think. So we won't really know until the night of May 6.

Eurozone Unemployment Record


Zone euro : nouveau record du taux de chômage, à 10,9 % en mars

Le taux de chômage dans la zone euro a atteint en mars son plus haut niveau, à 10,9 % de la population active, égalant le record d'avril 1997, a indiqué mercredi 2 mai Eurostat. Selon l'office des statistiques européen, 17,36 millions de personnes étaient au chômage en mars dans la zone euro, soit 169 000 de plus que le mois précédent.