Presidential 2022: can the debate between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron tip the election? – franceinfo

“Oh yes, I’ll find it for you immediately and you’ll see that you’re going to be in trouble!” launches a Marine Le Pen, plunging with panic into her files. The debate between the two rounds of the 2017 presidential election began a dozen minutes ago when the candidate of the National Rally made a first mistake by confusing the file for the takeover of SFR with that of Alstom. “You know, there is one who makes telephones and the other, it has nothing to do, he makes turbines and industrial equipment…” mocks Emmanuel Macron. “I think there was an insufficient mastery of the files, we saw it from the start with this error and it destabilized it until the end of the debate”, notes today Florian Philippot, his adviser to the time, which slammed the door of the RN at the end of 2017. “She could not win, but the polls placed her before the debate between 40 and 41%, and in the end, she is 6 or 7 points less.” >> Presidential election: follow the news of the campaign in our direct Five years later, Marine Le Pen claims to have learned the lessons of 2017 when it comes time to find Emmanuel Macron for a new debate, Wednesday April 20. Especially since the stakes seem very different this time. “In a very tight context like today, winning the debate can allow you to win the election”, estimates Arnaud Mercier, professor of political communication at the University of Paris Panthéon-Assas. “If the polls tell us that the two candidates are at 51% and 49%, the debate will be of enormous importance.” Arnaud Mercier, professor of political communication at franceinfo Historians remember the first televised match between two rounds between Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and François Mitterrand. The polls then place the two men neck and neck for the final victory and the debate will tip the scales, according to the opinion of the two protagonists. “François Mitterrand thought he had lost the 1974 election there, assures Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 2012 at Le Parisien. He confided to me: ‘Your ‘you do not have the monopoly of the heart’ destabilized me, took my breath away. That night I lost 300,000 voters.’ A real debate can win or lose. The second round of the 1974 election was decided with a difference of around 400,000 votes. If Emmanuel Macron has good memories of the 2017 debate, he knows that everything has changed since. “Emmanuel Macron will be in a much more uncomfortable situation because he has a track record, observes historian and political scientist Jean Garrigues. Remember Mitterrand’s punchline in 1981, who attacked VGE on its track record, calling it ‘ passive man’.” Nicolas Sarkozy himself found himself in this delicate position in 2012. Facing him, “François Hollande was freer, he did not have the burden of years of responsibility in power”, comments Franck Louvrier, communication adviser at the era of the former president. During the debate between the two rounds, Nicolas Sarkozy was thus stuck in the face of the “Me president” of his socialist opponent. “He hadn’t had a debate for five years, adds Franck Louvrier. Like the President of the Republic today…” “On this point, it is true that Marine Le Pen has an advantage, because the ‘training matters…” Franck Louvrier, former adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy at franceinfo In 2017, Marine Le Pen also tried to attack Emmanuel Macron on his record as minister of François Hollande, “but it was not the good angle, because no one knew Macron at the time”, recognizes an RN executive. “This time, Emmanuel Macron has a balance sheet and there is a real anti-Macron background, analyzes Arnaud Mercier. If Marine Le Pen manages to point out the negative aspects of the balance sheet and that she manages to gain credibility, then we cannot exclude that his performance will allow him to mobilize an electorate, especially on the left, who hate Macron.” Marine Le Pen now has more strings to her bow. “She will attack him on communication errors, small hurtful phrases, immigration, security, the McKinsey affair…” anticipates Jean Garrigues. Because the debate is also an opportunity to exploit the flaws of its competitor. Franck Louvrier remembers well the preparation of Nicolas Sarkozy before his face-to-face with Ségolène Royal, in 2007. “The challenge was complicated, since for the first time we had a man facing a woman”, says he. “We had considered that it was necessary to work on the substance, to go on discrediting the opponent. But we had taken care not to attack the person.” Franck Louvrier at franceinfo Ségolène Royal was on the offensive, “because she was behind in the polls”, analyzes Jean Garrigues. According to the historian, “the debate between the two rounds, although unavoidable, was never decisive. It is always the confirmation of a campaign dynamic.” He believes that this is generally a reflection of the political situation at the time. “It is always the one who is in the position of favorite who wins the debate. Except perhaps in 1995, when Chirac and Jospin neutralized each other.” “There is more to lose than to gain in a debate. I do not think that we can move a lot of voices, but we can damage our image, analyzes Franck Louvrier. The convinced are reassured and the opponents are confirmed. In short, things are gelling. The debate will not tip the election, unless there is an edge fault by one of the two.” Precisely, at the National Rally, the trauma of the failed debate in 2017 is still in everyone’s mind. Marine Le Pen admits it. “The debate was a failure for which I paid a very heavy price,” she confided to franceinfo in March. For several tenors of the RN, it was the lack of preparation that sent Marine Le Pen into the wall, on May 3, 2017. “They had not found better than to stick appointments with him the day before the debate until two in the morning. She was just exhausted.” In their sights: “The Philippot brothers who had arrived with their hands in their pockets without preparing anything.” They accuse the former strategic director Florian Philippot and his brother Damien, a former pollster Ifop, of having advised the far-right candidate to be offensive. “It was a strategic mistake. People were not ready for that, they wanted a debate with speckled foils”, rewinds Philippe Olivier, special adviser to the candidate. Florian Philippot blames the candidate, who seemed to “discover her files in the makeup room” according to him. This year, the presidential finalist wanted to prepare for her return match by leaving nothing to chance. Relaxed agenda, going green in Brittany, fact sheets and thematic notes, dummy debates… Marine Le Pen has made this debate the priority of her campaign between the two rounds. “She is aware that she cannot miss this meeting, which will undoubtedly be watched by more than 16 million viewers. We have all suggested to her to prepare well, to rest well so that she does not arrive stressed”, confides Steeve Briois, the RN mayor of Hénin-Beaumont. In order not to suggest that the debate would be the sole objective of this end of the campaign, those around him are trying to play down the drama. “Yes, she is going to isolate herself for a few days to take time off, but we have to stop being so excessive,” confirms Jean-Philippe Tanguy, her deputy campaign manager. “She’s not going to shut herself up in a monastery either. The priority is the countryside.” On the side of Emmanuel Macron, little information has filtered on the preparation. Unlike his rival, the president seems to want to trivialize this meeting more. “It will be duly prepared but as one of the elements of the second round”, slice one of his advisers. From the point of view of strategy, the candidate will seek to put his opponent in “discomfort so that she shows her true face”, confides an LREM executive. “The election is not played on a debate.” an adviser to Emmanuel Macron at franceinfo For Senator LREM François Patriat, it is not the form but the substance that must be worked on. According to him, the match will be played above all on skill. “In such a tragic moment, the question is to know who should be entrusted with the keys to the country. To Madame Le Pen and her support Lépine for the demagogic solution? I do not believe it.” On Wednesday evening, millions of French people will be there in front of their television sets for “this media spectacle”, warns Franck Louvrier. “It’s a bit like circus games, in the fashion of the 21st century, he laughs. The press and the French are waiting for this return match. We know who was the loser of season 1, we are waiting the loser of season 2.”