Nick Gutteridge, Express, February 17, 2017
The Front National leader has reeled in both her conservative rival Francois Fillon and centrist Emmanuel Macron and now sits on a similar level of support to that attracted by the Republican 80 days ahead of his surprise victory.
Polling for the all-important second round of voting to decide who will become the next French president shows she is still lagging behind both men, but by a significantly smaller margin that just a few weeks ago.
The unexpected results are a sign of the political momentum growing behind the controversial nationalist chief, who has been hoovering up votes amongst France’s disaffected working classes and legions of young unemployed.
A survey carried out for Opinion Way showed that in the space of just 10 days Ms Le Pen has reduced the polling gap to Mr Fillon, who has been hit by a series of scandals, from a massive 21 points to just 14.
If the presidential run-off set to take place in May were between the pair, as things stand the Front National leader would secure 43 per cent of the vote, whilst Mr Fillon would be the eventual winner with 57 per cent.
In that survey, which gives a snapshot of public mood 80 days before the vote, her level of support resembles a Survey Monkey poll for last year’s US presidential election, which showed Mr Trump on 41 per cent and Hillary Clinton on 51 per cent, with the remaining eight per cent undecided, at the same point in the race.
But perhaps even more tellingly still, Ms Le Pen has made similar inroads into the lead held by the moderate left-wing candidate Mr Macron, who is currently on course to be her opponent in the final round.
Within the same 10 day period from February 7-17 she ate into his lead over her by 12 points reducing it to a 20 per cent margin.
If the contest between the pair were held tomorrow the FN chief would receive 40 per cent of the vote compared to Mr Macron’s 60 per cent.
However, the controversial leader faces more of an uphill struggle than the US president she so admires because under America’s electoral system he could win its election without securing a majority in the popular vote, which went to Mrs Clinton by some 2.9 million.
The shock results are nonetheless likely to heighten nerves across the continent over the once unlikely prospect of a Le Pen victory this summer, which would undoubtedly bring about the biggest crisis in the European Union’s history.
The far-right leader is a committed Eurosceptic who wants to scale down Brussels and pull France out of the euro, which she has lambasted as a disaster which has enriched Germany whilst creating joblessness and devastation elsewhere.
She is already poised to comfortably win the first round of voting, having taken a five point lead over the rest of the field amid a groundswell of anger against the establishment in Paris.
But pollsters have repeatedly pointed out that she faces a much tougher task to win the presidency over all because France’s two-round system, which is designed to work against fringe candidates, requires the winner to secure more than half of the popular vote.
In a recent survey by Cevipof of some 15,000 voters a massive 53% of respondents said they do not like Ms Le Pen “at all”, compared to just 13% who like her “a lot”, underlining how divisive she is as a candidate.
In contrast just 28 per cent of people intensely disliked Mr Macron, although his committed fan-club was smaller with just eight per cent saying they were greatly attracted to his personality.