Projections that Macron could outperform Le Pen on April 24 by at least four to six percentage points have alarmed the president’s supporters, as well as countries across Europe. Le Pen, who set out on his campaign trip to a different part of France on Monday afternoon, coined the vote as a “civilization’s choice.”
Macron campaigned a few before the first round, but on Monday appeared ready to engage in an intense two-week period, drawing in voters who picked other candidates or were knocked out in the first round, including an offensive in the Le Pen region.
The president’s first trip led him to Digne, a city in one of the poorest regions of France in the north, where 42 percent of voters supported him. Le Pen on Sunday And only 15% chose Macron. More than a third abstained from voting.
Macron, sometimes criticized as aloof, showed his friendlier side, moving slowly through the crowd, pausing for selfies. He spent more than an hour talking to voters who had gathered in front of the local mayor’s office, answering questions about inflation, the rising cost of living and inadequate pensions – some of the specific issues of this campaign, amplified by the impact of the war in Ukraine.
Christian Delbeck, 59, said then that she had randomly picked a first-round candidate — by Monday morning, she wasn’t even sure which candidate she had voted for. But Macron’s visit to Dinene appears to have piqued her interest.
“Everything he talked about made sense to me,” she said. “Le Pen said a lot of things I don’t agree with, including about Muslims.”
It will be difficult to convince other voters. Some of those who had gathered to see the president outside the mayor’s office in Denin played anti-Macron songs, and at times the atmosphere soured.
“I am here to talk about all my pledges and to explain my reforms. But I am also here to tell you, face to face, that you are lying,” Macron told one voter who attacked his track record. “It’s wrong that I didn’t do anything for Deanne.”
A few hundred meters from where Macron was shaking hands, 54-year-old Pascal Henry went to spend his day in front of the post office – and said he still plans to vote for Le Pen in two weeks. “People here need help,” he said. Macron says a lot but doesn’t do much.
Le Pen echoed those criticisms on Monday during his campaign trip to Souci, the far-right stronghold in central France. “Now this [Macron] He will go to Digne to see the consequences of his five-year tenure…and I hope he realizes that his policies have done enormous damage and that purchasing power is a top priority for millions of French people.”
Macron appeared undeterred by Le Pen’s offensive line, as he moved closer to her ground on Monday evening, in his election campaign. Within her constituency in the town of Karvin.
In his victory speech on Sunday, Macron said he wanted to convince those who abstained or voted for extremist candidates “that our project offers a much stronger response to their fears of the far-right project”. His strategy appears to be aimed at reviving the “Republican Front” – a coalition of voters across the political spectrum opposing the far-right.
Macron has spent most of the past five years articulating his vision of how France and Europe in general need to address the social and economic concerns that drive voters to support national figures. However, political analysts say Macron is also partly responsible for dismantling the anti-nationalist coalition, when he crushed France’s long-established center-right and center-left parties in 2017.
Several of the candidates he defeated in the first round on Sunday immediately called on their supporters to vote for Macron and prevent Le Pen from winning the run-off.
Among those who have thrown their weight behind the incumbent are left-wing candidates Fabien Rosell, Anne Hidalgo and Yannick Gadot – most importantly – Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left politician who came third on Sunday, narrowly ahead of Le Pen.
“You must not give a single vote to Madame Le Pen,” Melenchon said Sunday, repeating the sentence several times.
Macron also had the support of centre-right candidate Valérie Pécresse, whose voters seemed particularly inclined to consider supporting Le Pen.
Although Macon appears to have a larger pool of voters from which to attract Le Pen, it remains uncertain how many people will turn to him on April 24.
He faces a particularly steep rise with Mélenchon voters, including those on the left who have been disappointed by the president’s shift to the right on national security and his record on climate policies. Opinion polls suggest about a third of Melenchon’s supporters could vote Le Pen in the second round.
“Left voters really do have the key to this election in their hands – they are the kingmakers,” said Vincent Marigny, professor of political science at the University of Nice.
By traveling to areas considered strongholds of the right, Macron risks further alienating voters from the left. But the themes that dominated his trip on Monday – the impact of deindustrialization and rising poverty – were central to both Le Pen and Melenchon.
Mélenchon took 19 percent of the voting share in Hauts-de-France, where Denain is located, on Sunday.
While Macron’s handling of the pandemic has been largely approved in France, the far right and far left have criticized his introduction of a vaccination permit. Macron appeared to be playing to his critics’ favour when he told a French newspaper in January that he wanted to “inflame” anyone still vulnerable.
Responding to a voter who accused Macron of treating unvaccinated people as “subjects”, Macron on Monday defended those earlier comments, saying: “I said it in a loving way.”
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