Saturday, December 24, 2016

Is Fillon Fading?

A remarkable thing has happened since Fillon's surprisingly strong victory in the primary of the right: instead of receiving a post-primary boost, momentum has drained from his candidacy. It's as if those who voted in the primary, determined as they were to retire the two old warhorses Juppé and Sarkozy, did so without paying much attention to the program of the eventual candidate. With the increased scrutiny that comes of being the winner, Fillon has stalled out. And, lo and behold, the apparent gainer is not the yet to be designated candidate of the left but the unaffiliated centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Polls at this stage are of course to be treated with extreme caution, but there are some striking figures here: for instance, 56% of FN sympathizers would prefer Macron to Fillon. This is not altogether surprising. The FN is the leading party of the working class, and Fillon's platform is decidedly worker-hostile. Macron enjoys even stronger support on the left, despite his having distanced himself from the Socialist Party.

Of course, Macron's problem remains making it to round 2. He would need some of those FN voters to defect in the first round, and he would somehow need to demolish the candidacy of the winner of the left primary and simultaneously reduce support for Mélenchon. But stranger things have happened. If Fillon's inevitability wanes, Macron just might edge him out. Or perhaps it will be Le Pen whose invincibility comes into question. She has been having difficulty raising money for her campaign, and voters may decide, as they did in the regional elections, that taking the final step with the FN is just too much.