You don’t have to be a political scientist to understand that one of the stupidest things you could possibly do if you’re Emmanuel Macron is underestimate Marine Le Pen.
Those of a conservative persuasion won’t like this, but I still contend that Donald Trump stumbled into the White House. That is, I am by no means sure that he expected to win. He says he did, but I’m not buying it.
But he did win thanks (well, thanks to the Kremlin, but let’s leave Moscow out of this) in part to his success at whipping disaffected Americans into a veritable frenzy. He knew he was good at that, but I don’t think he appreciated just how good at it he was.
Marine Le Pen is a different animal. She may be a bigot, her last name may be a curse, and she may be much further behind in the polls than Trump was heading into the home stretch, but she’s got one thing going for her that Trump didn’t: she’s not a simpleton.
And that means that if you give her an opening, she’s going to take advantage of it in a ruthlessly strategic way – again unlike Trump, who basically just showed up at large venues and shouted about random shit.
Witness what happened on Wednesday in Emmanuel Macron’s hometown of Amiens, northern France.
Emmanuel Macron was booed and whistled at by striking factory workers in his hometown of Amiens, northern France, after an ambush by his nationalist rival Marine Le Pen forced him into a confrontation with some of her hardcore supporters.
Le Pen made a surprise visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant on the edge of Amiens while election front-runner Macron was meeting with union leaders from the plant in the center of town. Le Pen told reporters on the picket line that Macron’s decision to meet the workers’ representatives behind closed doors showed his “contempt” for their plight, forcing her rival to change his plans and engage with the demonstrators live on television.
“Surprise motherfucker! You didn’t know I knew about that meeting, did you?!”
Back to Bloomberg:
With the black smoke of burning tires whipped up by a cold wind and cries of “Marine! President!” punctuating his remarks, Macron tried to mount a defense of the European trade regime in the factory parking lot as angry demonstrators crowded round.
“When she tells you the solution is to turn back globalization, she’s lying,” Macron told the workers, his comments picked by the microphones of more than 100 reporters witnessing the clash. “We cannot outlaw firing. We must fight to find a buyer.”
Here’s the clip:
The takeaway here is pretty simple: that big margin the polls have for Macron in the runoff is probably a lot more precarious than anyone cares to think. And while one incident certainly isn’t going to make or break Macron, he’d do well to learn something from what happened on Wednesday.
More color from FT
French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron was ambushed on the campaign trail on Wednesday by far-right rival Marine Le Pen, with the rivals for the Elysée Palace clashing over globalisation and compounding a shaky start for Mr Macron in the final two weeks of the election race.
The rivals’ visits to a factory in Amiens in northern France came on what was the first day of vigorous campaigning for both after they led voting in the election’s first round on Sunday. They are fighting to become president in a run-off vote on May 7, with Mr Macron a strong favourite.
Mr Macron had gone to Amiens, his hometown, to visit a plant owned by Whirlpool, the white goods manufacturer, which has been at the centre of a debate about the challenges of globalisation. Nearly 290 jobs are set to be cut next year when the US group shifts production to Poland.
Mr Macron met union members to talk about how, as president, he would support the business and retrain workers, trying to sell a message that his government would use the free market for the benefit of all.
But even as Mr Macron was in the town to talk to union officials, Ms Le Pen blindsided his team by turning up at the plant itself to hammer home her message that free trade was to blame for France’s de-industrialisation. “I am the candidate, above all, for the French people who do not want to be stripped of their jobs, of their purchasing power and who do not want to be put in unfair competition with low-cost countries,” said Ms Le Pen.