France Votes

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Updated: 4/24/07, 4:30 p.m.

France voted Sunday in the first round of its presidential election. I haven't followed French elections very closely, because it has long seemed to be that it didn't matter who won–he would be French. But this year may be different and not only because one of the two candidates who made it to the second round is a woman. Here are the election results nationally and by department.

Overall, Nicolas Sarkozy of the Gaullist Party won 31 percent of the vote, Segolene Royal of the Socialist Party 26, centrist Francois Bayrou 19, and anti-immigrationist Jean-Marie le Pen 11. The eight minor candidates got 14 percent. The polls pretty much got it right, except for Le Pen, who got a few points less than in the polls–rather than more, as he did in 2002, when he got 17 percent and narrowly outpolled Socialist Lionel Jospin, then faced and lost to Jacques Chirac in the second round. I tend to agree with this analysis, that Sarkozy is in a good position for the second round and that Royal is in a bad position. With the current score, Sarkozy, Bayrou, and Le Pen together won 61 percent of the vote, and minor rightist candidates got 4 percent more. This is a poor score for the Socialists, who won the presidency in 1981 and 1988 and were competitive in 1974 and 1995.

Maps of the departments where the four leading candidates ran best tend to fortify this analysis. Bayrou got more than 20 percent of the vote in the two Alsace departments, long heavily for the right, and in the Vendee in western France and the adjacent Brittany. The Vendee has been heavily for the right since the French Revolution; it revolted against the revolutionaries, whose army killed thousands. He also ran well in the two Savoy departments. These areas should go heavily for Sarkozy in the second round. Ditto for the Hauts-de-Seine, Yvelines, and Essonne departments just west of Paris. These are mostly affluent suburban and exurban territory basically inclined to the right. Bayrou also scored heavily in southwest France, where he's from, and in the lightly populated Cevennes; these votes are harder to figure.

Le Pen ran best in the northeast and southeast. All but two of the 28 departments where he received more than 13 percent gave him a plurality in 2002. These Le Pen voters seem pretty likely to go to Sarko in the second round.

As for Royal, she won more than 25 percent in most of central and southwest France, in her home area of Poitou, in Brittany, and some parts of Normandy. But she fell below that in the Nord, the large industrial department next to Belgium, which used to be a stronghold of the left–even though there weren't many minor candidates of the left to siphon votes away from her. Nor did she do well in Marseille, which Sarkozy carried. She carried all the departments Jospin carried in 2002.

Note that Sarkozy got more than 30 percent in all the departments in metro Paris except for Seine-St-Denis, a leftist stronghold you pass through on your way from Charles de Gaulle Airport to your hotel in Paris. (And you should pass through it quickly; it's where the worst banlieuex riots have taken place.)

Finally, I was not able to find any correlation between these results and this map of the results on the 2005 referendum in which the French rejected the European Constitution.

Odds and Ends

Pollster Scott Rasmussen now has Barack Obama tied with Hillary Clinton at 32 percent each. Clinton has been hovering in the 30s all year, except for a one-week dip into the 20s in January and a two-week dip into the 20s in February. I don't think this is very encouraging for her: 100 percent know her and two thirds aren't voting for her–and these are Democrats. Obama, on the one hand, has high name recognition, but his substantive recognition is bound to go higher as the campaign goes on. In nonpollster speak, he has room to grow. Note that John Edwards has a notable but small rise at about the time he and his wife announced that her cancer had recurred but is still decidedly in third place.

Yes, I realize that the polling now is inconsistent: Fox, ABC/WashPost, ARG, and LATimes/Bloomberg have Clinton leading Obama by from 10 to 21 percentage points, while USA Today/Gallup and CNN have her leading by 5 and 4 points. Which brings to mind Mickey Kaus's observation that perhaps voters are more willing to tell a robocall pollster (i.e., Rasmussen) than an in-person interviewer (the others) that they're voting against a woman.

"Mystery Pollster agrees that [s]omething is systematically different about the Rasmussen surveys that has been showing a tighter Democratic race over the last three weeks. But he likes Chris Bowers' explanation of the difference better than my "Don't Tell Mama" Theory.... P.S.: Either way, it's bad news for Hillary if (as MP suggests) the Rasmussen poll is more accurate...."

Something to think about.

The Las Vegas Review Journal weighs in with a blistering editorial on Harry Reid. If I were a politician, I'd hate to read that in my hometown newspaper, especially in a hometown that's growing so rapidly that a large percentage of voters in my next election won't know much about me except what they've read in the leading local newspaper. The good news for Reid is that his next election is not until 2010. Speaking of the Journal, here's a scathing indictment of gun control by one of its editors.

I don't read the Washington Monthly blog regularly, but perhaps I should. Here's a very interesting interview of the Monthly's founding editor Charlie Peters by Ezra Klein, who strikes me as one of the most interesting young liberal political writers around. I've always found Peters to be a highly engaging guy, delightful even when I disagree strongly with him. That's a good character trait for a man whose original thinking has probably everybody disagreeing with him at one time or another.

I wrote a review for the Wall Street Journal (can't find it online) of his book Five Days in Philadelphia: The Amazing "We Want Willkie!" Convention of 1940 and How It Freed FDR to Save the Western World. It's a great read for anyone who likes a good political yarn, complete with the author's recollections of the events of the time.

Those who think judicial opinions can't be fun to read should take a few minutes and read this opinion from Judge Frank Easterbrook of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. With deft good humor Judge Easterbrook overturns what seems to me to have been an amazingly unjust prosecution. Why weren't Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his chief of staff firing this U.S. attorney?