Correspondent in Paris
Xavier Bertrand (56 years old), president of the Hautes de France region, is listed in opinion polls as the best conservative candidate to eliminate the left and compete against Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in the next presidential election.
According to the latest poll by the conservative ‘Le Figaro’, Bertrand is the preferred candidate for the 40% of supporters and voters of the center and right. His rivals for the conservative candidacy are far away: Valerie Pécresse (54 years old), president of the Ile de France region (Paris and its periphery), is only preferred for 23% of the same social sectors. Laurent Wauquiez (46 years old), president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, has 17% favorable opinions. Y Michel barnier, the most international of the candidates, barely gets 8% of sympathies.
Choice of candidate
The sympathies, indifference or antipathies of voters and supporters do not bind any party. The Republican leadership (LR, the traditional right-wing party, Sarkozy’s party) is very free to organize the choice of its candidate for the presidential election as it sees fit. But opinion polls, traditionally reliable in France, they are a precious trend indicator: Bertrand passes well or very well among centrist, conservative and very conservative supporters and voters. ‘Le Figaro’ has published another very highly significant one. If the second round of the presidential election were held next week, Xavier Bertrand would be the only conservative candidate capable of defeating Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Faced with a hypothetical duel between Macron and Bertrand, the latest poll by ‘Le Figaro’ affirms that the conservative candidate could be the winner, 52 against 48. Against Marine Le Pen, Bertrand could win 61 against 39.
These are very highly theoretical digs and hypotheses. During the next ten months many events can occur that can modify this trend. The left can find a credible candidate. Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, aspires to be that great revelation. It is still a long way off in the polls. It is not even clear under what conditions she could be elected a candidate for a PS that is in a historic crisis.
Macron and Le Pen can benefit from unpredictable shocks. The rest of the candidates of the center and right can win positions. Beyond opinion polls, there remains the underlying trend. To this day, to a majority of traditional center-right and right-wing supporters and voters, Bertrand appears to embody a luck of ‘synthesis’ of all currents of French moderate conservatism.
Skillful political crocodile
Son of parents employed in banks, former insurance broker, divorced twice, before finding his last wife, father of four children from three marriages, Xavier Bertrand He has the skin of a skilled political crocodile, hardened in countless battles: former Minister of Labor, Social Relations and Health; emeritus expert in the French social protection system, always faithful to successive conservative presidents (Chirac and Sarkozy); a close friend for many years of the head of government and the interior minister of Macron (Jean Castex and Gérald Darmanin); emeritus connoisseur of all the bureaucracies of the conservative parties of the last thirty years … Bertrand can put a unique icing on that curriculum: Macron proposed him to be his prime minister, a proposal that he rejected.
Last June 27, Bertrand was reelected president region of Highlands of France (North) with 52.37% of the votes, humiliating Sébastien Chenu (gay protected by Marine Le Pen) and the candidate of the left, Karima Dalli. Bertrand had announced that this election would have the value of a “primary election” to confirm his candidacy for the presidential election, whatever the decision of his party, LR.
Currents of French conservatism
While awaiting events, over the next few months, 40% of the supporters and voters of the center and right seem to appreciate in Bertrand a synthesis, to be confirmed, of the great currents of French conservatism for more than a century. From General de Gaulle, Bertrand assumes the social character of politics; de Giscard endorses the great European heritage, qualifying it: voted against the Maastricht Treaty, but in favor of the Treaty that should “re-found” the EU. De Chirac assumes the popular vocation, moving away from the temptations of a president capable of promising everything, without remembering his promises. From Sarkozy admires personal determination, avoiding the rich boy undertone.
In the economic field, Bertrand presents himself as a liberal (in the French way) and promises to clean up public accounts, like all his predecessors. In the cultural and social field, he is more to the right than Macron, against the reforms in matters of sexuality, fatherhood and families of a new type. In matters of immigration and terrorism, promises a strong hand, always away from the Le Pen family, which he considers incompatible with his political vision of France, like the rest of his predecessors, from de Gaulle to Sarkozy.