PARIS, FRANCE - On Friday night the French election campaign officially ended. Campaigning is prohibited on the two days before the ballot boxes open, and there's a strict ban on publicizing polls.
The last polls, whose results were made public Friday night, were nearly identical. Though two gave the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron a two-point advantage over the far-right Marine Le Pen, on average, the polls showed the four main candidates were neck and neck: Each has around 21.5% of the vote, with a 3% margin of error.
The attack in Champs-Elysees appears to have failed to propel the National Front's Le Pen forward, despite her hard line on Islam and immigration. However, it may be that the attack will take a while to have an effect on voters. At the same time, it's also possible that Francois Fillon, the conservative right candidate who's fighting Le Pen for the same voter base, will see a swell of support as a result of the attack.
On Friday, a day after the attack, the conspiracy-theory prone Fillon sounded more like Le Pen Senior than a candidate of the Republicans. For instance, he insisted that Paris was hit by other attacks on the same day of the Champs-Elysees one, but that these were kept under wraps so as not to boost the right-wing's chances of winning the election. Strategically, Fillon has almost completely stopped attacking Macron, focusing on Le Pen instead. Calling on right-wing voters to "come back home," he warned that voting for the National Front's controversial leader in the first round would necessarily lead to Macron's election when the two go head-to-head in the run-off.
The second significant take from the polls is the dogged determination of Le Pen's supporters, as compared to her rivals'. In fact, had we taken into account only those who told pollsters that they were "certain to very certain" in their choice of candidate, the results would have been quite different:
Le Pen: 19%
Jean-Luc Melenchon: 13.5%
Benoit Hamon: 4.5%
Melenchon is an unimpressive fourth on this list, but bear in mind that he has a reserve of votes in the socialist party's straggling Hamon. The socialist's poor chances are so evident – all the polls show him with less than 10% of the vote – that his supporters may make a last-minute choice to ditch him as a hopeless case and rally for Melenchon instead.
Fillon and Le Pen also have a small reserve of potential votes in the supporters of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who make up roughly 4% of voters. Dupont-Aignan has so far withstood pressure to step out of the race (this included, according to him, threatening phone calls from the aging tycoon Serge Dassault, the owner of an aviation concern and the newspaper Le Figaro, who demanded he publicly support Fillon).
But the biggest reserve was, and remains, the huge number of swing voters. It's possible that many of them will not vote at all. If 25% or more sit out the election, pollsters say, that would pave Le Pen's way to the Elysee.
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