French elections

Everyone's talking about Marine Le Pen, but Macron will still likely win France's election

Hugging factory workers, chasing dolphins and grappling with an octopus – these are just some of the things Marine Le Pen has done in recent days as she chases the French presidency. And while the guerilla tactics may be garnering her more media coverage than frontrunner Emmanuel Macron, her efforts will likely be in vain as she continues to trail him in the polls by a wide margin ahead of the final vote on May 7.

Following the initial round of voting on April 23, which saw 11 candidates whittled down to just two, most of the defeated contenders have urged their supporters to vote for Macron, not so much because they support his views but because he is a more appealing alternative than the far-right Le Pen, who wants France to leave the EU.

Many have come to see Macron as a shoo-in to be the next president of France. But this boost from other political leaders may have led to some complacency, as new opinion polls published Thursday show his support has slipped slightly –  to the lowest it’s been in two months.

A daily Opinionway poll showed Macron was still the clear favorite, but his score has dropped below 60 percent for the first time since mid-March — though only to 59 percent. Possibly more worrying is another poll suggesting that 50 percent of people view Le Pen as having made a better start in the runoff campaign, while just 43 percent say Macron has come out of the traps ahead.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Having won the first vote with 24.1 percent to Le Pen’s 21.3 percent, critics Macron was over-exuberant in his victory speech, critics claimed, saying he was wrong to hold a high-profile celebration with his campaign team at La Rotonde bistro in Paris. Macron batted away the criticism of complacency, saying he was “very proud to celebrate this first round despite peevish commentators, it’s because I was ahead of Marine Le Pen. Now I’ll continue to fight.”

  • In Macron’s hometown of Amiens in the north of the country, Le Pen on Wednesday made an unannounced visit to a Whirlpool factory that’s scheduled to be closed in 2018, with manufacturing moving to Poland. Le Pen took selfies with the factory workers, and said: “Everyone knows what side Emmanuel Macron is on — he is on the side of the corporations. I am on the workers’ side, here in the car park, not in restaurants in Amiens.”
  • At the time, Macron was across town in closed-door meetings with trade union officials from the factory. He didn’t have plans to speak to workers, but when he heard of Le Pen’s visit, he hastily arranged a visit. When he got there, he was greeted with heckles and boos by the workers. He later claimed on Twitter that the 90 minutes he spent “with union representatives and no media” was more important than the 10 minutes Le Pen spent with workers in the car park in front of the cameras.
  • On Thursday Le Pen once again sought to reinforce the perception that she is the champion of the working people, protecting them from the man she claims embodies “unbridled globalization.” Before dawn on Thursday, she boarded a trawler at the small port of Grau-du-Roi on the south coast for a four-hour trip out to sea, which included her grappling with a freshly caught octopus. “Let me warn you, that man [Macron] will destroy our entire social and economic structure,” Le Pen told reporters.

  • In response, Macron tweeted: “Madame Le Pen has gone fishing. Have a good trip. Withdrawing from Europe as she proposes would mean the end of the French fishing industry. Think about that.”
  • With just 10 days left before the final vote, both candidates are seeking to convince the 55 percent of the country who didn’t vote for them the first time around. All but one of the other candidates have urged their supporters to vote for Macron, which is why most analysts predict an easy victory for the former banker.
  • The one candidate who has not given his supporters direction on which way to vote is far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who secured 20 percent of the vote in the first round. While he is positioned at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Le Pen, he does share some of her values, including her pro-worker and anti-globalization stances. He vehemently disagrees with her view that immigration and radical Islam are the cause of most of France’s problems.

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

M-F 7:30PM HBO