There's a little bit for everyone in today's results. Many in France breathed a collective Ouf! The FN failed to win any region despite leading in 6 after round 1. The PS can be satisfied that it was not wiped out. Holding on to 6 regions was a triumph in view of the dire predictions after the first round. The Republicans also took 6 regions, and Sarkozy's ni-ni strategy appears to have paid off, despite much commentary that he was the big loser in the first round. And finally, Marine Le Pen, though visibly crestfallen after her defeat, did achieve the FN's highest national score ever, with 28.2% of the vote.
Nevertheless, the big story is that there is still significant resistance to seeing the FN in government. People are certainly disappointed with the performance of the mainstream parties, but many are not disappointed enough to allow the FN to carry the day. Participation improved between the 2 rounds, and those who left their couches to vote did so in order to stop the FN. Left-wing voters also found the strength to set aside their revulsion against a candidate as far from their views as Christian Estrosi in PACA because they found the prospect of an FN victory even more unpalatable.
Does this mean that the right-wing populist backlash has crested in France? Hardly. The economic crisis is not yet over, hostility to refugees and Muslims remains high, and discontent with the mainstream has not abated. But the dramatic reversals in PACA and the north and the Republican victory in a triangular race in the northeast clearly indicate that Marine Le Pen has still not surmounted the final hurdle on the road to de-demonization.
I will have more to say in two commissioned articles in the days to come.