Can Macron win it all?

Yesterday’s post explored the paths for Macron to make it past the first round. Today’s will focus on second round scenarios and Macron’s future after the presidential election.

On to the question on everyone’s minds: can Macron win? The hardest step is actually to make it to the second round, as we saw yesterday. But if he does, all bets are off. So far, none of the polls that have been published even test Macron as a possible candidate in the second round, highlighting just how recently he has been able to create some momentum, in the midst of the snoozefest that is the Socialist primary and Fillon too ensconced in setting scores in his own party.

A second round against Le Pen should not be an issue, as the front républicain would unite behind him, and carry him to an easy victory. A very large part of the conservatives would vote for him because his cross-partisan appeal is much larger than Fillon’s, and a good part of the left would go out in droves to deal Marine Le Pen a crushing defeat, like her father was handed in 2002.

A Fillon-Macron opposition is much trickier to game. As polls stand, the left writ large (including Macron) weighs more than 50% in the first round, and a blanket support of all the left candidates, topped off by enough support from the center-right and civil servants who are afraid of Fillon’s austerity measures could be enough for Macron.

However, this scenario is of course too good to be true. Mélenchon openly loathes Macron and would certainly not openly provide him with any sort of support; at the same time, it is hard to see how Macron can recalibrate his second round message to go fetch those missing voters without alienating the center. The question therefore becomes of whether Macron is willing to compromise on his ideas in order to broaden his appeal on the left, and whether that is the necessary play to make, given the very limited crossover between the ideas of the two candidates. This would be less of a problem for the Socialist and Green voters who share more affinities and are above all concerned with the damage that a Fillon presidency may do to France’s social model and position in Europe.

Therefore, whether Macron can win against Fillon all comes down to electoral sociology and the mobilization of voters. Le Pen and Mélenchon will unite their efforts in decrying the two candidates as the same side of the (liberal) coin, leaving their followers to decide for themselves between whom they consider is the lesser of two evils. These are the voters who may well hold the key of a second round between Fillon and Macron.

The future for Macron in case of a defeat, whether in the first or second round of the presidential, is at this point less clear. Whether he would want to be a “simple” MP is in doubt, but he is in dire need of an elective mandate in order to quell criticisms about the fact that he had never won an election — or even run in any before the current presidential. Rumors have sent him to take over the city hall of Lyon after 2020, but that option seems to be ruled out as his stature rather fits a national mandate.

What is certain is that he will want to be the building block of the refoundation and reconfiguration of the French left, especially if his efforts to undermine the Socialist Party lead to its eventual explosion. The translation of his En Marche! movement into a political party uniting centrist and center-left forces, that he would head, makes him the likely main opposition leader for 2017 and beyond. This status needs to be anchored by a strong showing at the legislative elections, by obtaining more MP seats for his movement than the National Front.

One thing is for sure, Macron is here to stay. His learning curve in dealing with daily politics is still high and existing outside of the electoral period, while continuing to try to expand his electoral base for a run in 2022, will constitute the real challenge.

Martin M.