Valérie Pécresse, moderate conservative at the head of the Ile-de-France regional council and former budget minister, seems almost certain to be chosen this weekend as the candidate of the center-right Republicans. She described herself as “a third Thatcher, two third Merkel” and appears as the potential dark horse of an election where the French left seems doomed to insignificance.
For now, President Emmanuel Macron, occupying a large vacant middle ground, is a favorite. But he would be less comfortable facing Ms. Pécresse in a second round than a far-right ideologue.
Mr. Zemmour, unlike Ms. Le Pen, has won over part of the center-right with his erudition and his culture, but his challenge is now twofold: to convince the French that he is not a one-trick pony and to defeat the impression that he is not “presidential”. In other words, it needs to address issues beyond immigration, including formulating something that looks like an economic plan; and he probably needs to remove from his repertoire the kind of rude gesture he made to a protester in Marseille last month.
Yet so far, as with Mr. Trump, every outrage that could have derailed Mr. Zemmour has made him stronger, or at least still standing, and often at the head of the news of the day. An editorial in the center-right daily Le Figaro noted this week that it was a French writer, Honoré de Balzac, who called the scandal a “pedestal of success”.