Monday, April 29, 2002
In today's WSJ: Le Pen Voters Fed Up With Crime. Duh. Anyhow, the article makes basically the case I made right after the election: the issue is crime and social disorder, and how the dominant parties refuse to address it because, in the new Europe, there is less and less incentive for the mainstream parties to be responsive to the needs of the actual people. Also of note: there have been a number of anecdotes of French Jews talking about voting for Le Pen. Anyhow, my George Wallace analogy is looking pretty good.
I continue to predict he has a good chance of cracking 30% in the runoff. Particularly when you realize that he has a chance of picking up votes from the extreme left (who may like his anti-Americanism) and, most important, that many French people may not think it's worth their while to vote at all in the runoff, given that the outcome is a foregone conclusion and no one particularly likes Chirac.
Let's look at the totals.
Chirac is certain to get his own votes, those of Jospin, those of Bayrou and Madelin. That totals about 47% of the first-round electorate, assuming they all vote (which I think is safe to assume). Le Pen will get all his votes from the first round, or 17%. Could he pick off any others? Let's see. Chevenement got 5% on a Eurosceptic platform. Would his voters turn out for Chirac, Le Pen, neither, or would they possibly split? With Brussels essentially ordering the French to vote for Chirac, some votes for Le Pen look possible. Let's assume they go 3:2 for Chirac; we're now at 50:19. Saint-Josse ran on a rural regionalist sportsman platform, and got 4%. A 2:2 split between Chirac and Le Pen seems conservative, don't you think? That's 52:21. Megret ran on a right-wing platform, and Boutin on an anti-abortion platform; they got about 2% and 1% respectively. I don't think it's crazy to think Le Pen gets all of these, but let's say 1% don't bother to show up. We're now 52:23. Mamere and Le Page, the two green candidates, should turn out Chirac voters; that's 59:23. That leaves us with the approximately 15% of the electorate that voted for the hard-left. Suppose none of them bother to vote in an election that pits a center-right candidate against a far-right one. That doesn't seem impossible. Then Le Pen gets 28% of the total vote in the runoff. Let's assume the far-left types all show up but break 2:1 for Chirac. Then Le Pen gets 29%. Let's say they break 50:50. Then Le Pen gets over 31%. Even if they all show up and all vote Chirac, Le Pen still gets almost 24% of the total vote, nearly a quarter. And I think it's reasonably possible that Le Pen will gain votes up to the election, as people who want to voice their protest realize this is their best chance to do so, and that the vote is safe because Le Pen isn't going to get elected. Moreover, I expect the polls to understate Le Pen's vote because people will be embarrassed to tell interviewers that they are considering voting for him. All told, I think a reasonable market on Le Pen's final talley is 25% to 35% of the total vote.
Incidentally, he's now polling 22%.