ILLUSTRATION BY JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN&WRSacrebleu! Remember the House Republicans who changed the name of a famous fried potato to "freedom fries" out of anger that Paris was wimping out in the war on terrorism? Now they're holding up new President Nicolas Sarkozy as a model for campaign success. The Franco-American détente, first offered by Newt Gingrich, has been embraced by a GOP running scared that President Bush's dismal polls will kill the party. "Look at the Sarkozy model in France," says Rep. Tom Davis, a walking political almanac. "This was a guy who was in [President Jacques] Chirac's cabinet—Chirac's numbers, by the way, were lower than Bush's. And he came, and he rejuvenated the party."
"This race is not about Bush," adds publisher and GOP strategist Mary Matalin, a fan of the Sarko model. "The guy that makes the most sense, conveys confidence and leadership, and has some sound principles and policies," she adds, "will win." But Democratic strategist Mike McCurry notes differences. Chirac, he says, "was totally off the radar screen" during the French election, and "I have a hard time imagining that George Bush will disappear." Pollster John Zogby warns that Democrats should heed the French example, too. Sarkozy's foe "tried to run against Chirac and lost. Democrats will have to get over the fact that they are not running against Bush."