I normally avoid watching electoral debates. They are highly scripted matches designed to let politicians to insert a well rehearsed zinger to be used by the corporate as the next morning's soundbite.
I decided to make an exception for this one and I watched most of last night's debate between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.
It was an interesting set up as the two candidates sat at a round table across from one another. Lectern and lecturing was put aside for a more confrontational setting. The two journalists were mostly ignored by the candidates.
Marine Le Pen looked and sounded like a schoolyard bully. It was clear that she was there to belittle and provoke Macron. This strategy largely backfired because he remained calm and managed to frame her as a serial liar who is covering up her lack of distinct policies by exploiting people's fears.
Whereas Macron explained in simple and clear terms his policies if elected, Le Pen hurled some insults, sniggered sarcastically and tried to brand him as the puppet of global banking interests.
Nasty woman beholden to Wall Street. (There and here it is dog whistle for Jews.)
Oh, she also insisted that she was the only one who could make France great again.
Although Mr Trump has not formally met the French presidential candidate, she is close to some of the same advisers who helped craft the president's populist message during his campaign last year and was spotted in Trump Tower during the presidential transition in January.In fact, the "so what about your offshore account?" question at the end of the debate came from an alt-right American site. And Breitbart had been an early supporter.
In any event, France is not US and people didn't overlook the fact that despite a pile of notes she consulted constantly, she made several mistakes about the economy, the euro and policy decisions allegedly made by Macron. 19 in total, according to Le Monde.
He, on the other hand, did not seem to have any notes, corrected her facts from memory and made her look incompetent and out of her depth. In short, he looked presidential, she didn't.
This morning's polls declared Macron the clear winner.
Not bad for a front runner who had everything to lose and not much to gain from this debate.
But is it enough for him to win this Sunday?
As I explained recently, if people go to the polls he will win and last night's success would be icing on the cake. If they don't, she has a decent shot.
There are indications that Melenchon supporters will simply not vote for Macron and therefore they will sit this one out. Since he received roughly 7 million votes, we are talking about game changing numbers.
About 450,000 of his supporters were asked to say whether they would abstain, spoil their ballots or support Emmanuel Macron in the second round runoff this Sunday. Voting for the other candidate, the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, was not an option.Do you know what they said?
The results, released on Tuesday afternoon, showed that of more than 243,000 Mélenchon supporters who responded, 87,818 (36.1%) intended to spoil their vote, 84,682 (34.8%) planned to support Macron and 70,628 (29%) would not turn out for the second round. The figures suggest a total of 65% will not vote for Macron.These results are in line with anecdotal evidence I have been hearing.
I have zero digital footprint but my French friends who are on social media tell me that Melenchon voters actively bait Macron voters to ridicule them and to push their message that the two candidates are exactly the same.
So Melenchon is Ralph Nader to Macron's Al Gore.
Good move. We all know how well that turned out.