For Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, an in-between round of major political differences

In a particularly atypical presidential campaign, the between-two-rounds will not have been out of place. Project against project – or rather rejection against rejection. The fact of seeing “Everything but Le Pen” opposed by an “Everything but Macron” has deeply blurred the lines. But not only. Basically, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen found themselves flirting with an electorate very far from theirs. The two finalists also adopted second-round strategies totally different from those observed until April 10, almost upside down. The debate on Wednesday evening being the symbol: an outgoing attacker and a challenger who temporizes, it was not the expected scenario.

Emmanuel Macron, whose diplomatic schedule did not allow him to make more than three or four field trips in a month of campaigning before the first round, suddenly found time to travel. From April 11, and almost every day thereafter: Denain in the North, Le Havre, Mulhouse, Saint-Denis, Marseille, Figeac… Apart from this last city, this Friday, almost only cities where Marine Le Pen or Jean- Luc Mélenchon beat him on April 10.

These visits to unconquered territory “are as many opportunities as risks”, notes the communication adviser Florian Silnicki, of the agency La French Com. And indeed, here and there, Emmanuel Macron was caught by the collar by voters who were really unconvinced. “But for Marine Le Pen, it’s easy: she goes where she is quiet,” said a tenor of the majority on Saturday, on the sidelines of Emmanuel Macron’s meeting.

Marine Le Pen in full light

Indeed, when she goes to the field, the candidate of the National Rally chooses land that is more favorable to her. She plowed the ground of peripheral, peri-urban France, with small meetings, less media. A low-noise campaign that made its success in the first round. On the contrary, since April 10, it has put itself in full light, in particular by organizing two press conferences on its project to reform institutions and on the international scene – a very sensitive subject in the context of the war in Ukraine. Two controversies emerged, the first on his unconstitutional referendum to change the Constitution, the second on his desire to see NATO ally with Russia once the war in Ukraine is over. And on the form, his claimed sorting between journalists and the manu militari exclusion of a pro-Ukrainian demonstrator did not fail to “re-demonize” Marine Le Pen.

The member for Hénin-Beaumont has nevertheless tried to continue her demonization enterprise for the second round. On the question of the veil, which she wants to ban in the public space, she seemed to be tackling: “It’s a complex problem,” she said on Saturday. As if she did not want to rob the voters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the main reserve of votes. And then Wednesday evening, during the debate, Marine Le Pen returned to a rigorous position of pure and simple prohibition.

Emmanuel Macron also tried to make appeals with his foot to the electorate of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and quite spectacularly after a particularly right-handed first round: he said he was ready to stop his pension reform at 64 in the instead of 65, but above all has made a noticeable environmental shift.

The fear

It is in the logic of the French presidential election to try to widen, to even adapt its program: Nicolas Sarkozy hunted on the lands of the FN to hope to win in 2012, Ségolène Royal on those of François Bayrou in 2007… What is new is that, for the first time, it was necessary to seduce voters who were not immediately neighbours, but very distant. It is undoubtedly this particularity that has made this second whole so difficult to read.

In the end, on the eve of the second round, Emmanuel Macron’s advantage has widened significantly since April 10. Its lead was only 2 to 6 points in the surveys just after the first round, it is now 10 to 15 points in the most recent surveys. Polls that do not all take into account the effects of the debate on Wednesday evening.

Did the winks sent to the left of Emmanuel Macron convince? The Ipsos pollster Mathieu Gallard is skeptical: “Admittedly, the reports of Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Emmanuel Macron are a little better but, in our qualitative surveys, it is obvious that it is an effect of the re-demonization of Marine Le Pen between the two towers. “Despite the will displayed by the Macron camp to campaign “project against project”, basically, facing the far right, it seems that it is always fear that prevails. For the time being.

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