Friday, February 16, 2007

Moment of Truth for Royal

This upcoming Monday may be one of Segolene Royal's last real public opportunities to put a new face on her campaign and reverse what has become a route by UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy is now leading every poll, and as one astute reader just found, commands a full 10% over his socialist rival. On Monday night Segolene Royal will appear on the French TV show "I've Got A Question to Ask You", in which French citizens will have the opportunity to ask her views on every conceivable topic. Now that her platform has been announced, she will also have to be ready to defend it against some withering criticism.

While attempting to connect with voters, Royal will also have to avoid making any new embarassing gaffes, which have been a major contributor to her faltering campaign:

Ms Royal's camp said she was comfortable talking "directly" to "the people". Others are worried it could turn into a kind of Mastermind in which people fire complicated general knowledge tests at Ms Royal to trip her up. She has made a series of foreign policy gaffes and recently could not give the size of France's nuclear submarine fleet. Ms Royal must also aim for ratings as high as Mr Sarkozy, who had 8.2 million viewers on the show.

As mentioned above, Royal has a tough act to follow. Sarkozy's appearance on the show a week or so ago was hailed as a campaign success, in which he was able to stay quite composed despite enduring harsh accusations of racism.

Francois Bayrou, the centrist candidate who has managed a methodical rise in the polls, is now being looked at more and more as a potential upset to the SarkoSego runoff. Although still far behind Royal in the first round, a recent poll by Le Figaro stated that almost three quarters of the French agree with his statement that Sarkozy's and Royal's pledges are "unachievable."

That being said, not all is bad for Royal. Sarkozy is facing his own internal difficulties, with an economic aide recently suggesting that his pledge to cut social charges by 4% of GDP was unrealistic. And we should all remember that the election is still two months away, leaving all candidates the opportunity to rise or stumble.

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