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Can Le Pen beat Macron?

Marine Le Pen: connecting with la France profonde. Chesnot/Getty

Marine Le Pen is getting “too close for comfort” for Emmanuel Macron in this month’s French presidential election, says Giorgio Leali in Politico. The first round of voting is on Sunday; in one new survey of preferences for the second round, where the top two candidates go head to head, Macron is just 2% in front of the far-right leader. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Macron “seemed unstoppable” – he looked like the only candidate with enough foreign affairs experience to shepherd France through the crisis. But for all his long phone calls with Vladimir Putin and hobnobbing with world leaders, Macron has “barely hit the campaign trail”, even refusing to take part in traditional TV debates.

Le Pen, meanwhile, has been travelling the length and breadth of la France profonde, the “deep France” far from metropolitan Paris. Instead of controversial “migration and security issues”, she’s been “hammering on about everyday life problems such as the price of fuel and people’s purchasing power”. On economic problems – “by far French voters’ main concern” – she now comes across as more credible than Macron, according to polls. And with “anti-immigration hard-liner” Eric Zemmour outflanking her on the far-right, she’s been able, finally, to soften her image. In 2017, Macron thrashed Le Pen with 66% of the second-round vote. Even if he wins again, a much narrower margin of victory would reshape French politics.

😻📸 Part of Le Pen’s new mass appeal is down to being an “avowed cat lady”, says Anne-Elisabeth Moutet in UnHerd. The 53-year-old is a licensed breeder, and has a private Instagram account with only 166 followers “where she’s posted 3,759 photos of her feline tribe, and none of herself”.