THERE GOES FRANCE – AT 9:27 A.M. ET: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been the most pro-American leader France has had in many years. We've been lucky, and Obama, whether he realizes it or not, has been lucky.
But it looks like our luck is about to end. Americans haven't followed the French election campaign very closely, and yet it will impact us and our foreign policy. It appears that Sarkozy will soon be out of power:
(Reuters) - Voters look set to turn their backs on conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday's first round of an election that could give France its first left-wing president in 17 years just as fears resurface over Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
A sickly economy and a deep dislike of Sarkozy's flashy style have dominated the campaign, but the outside world's doubts about France's commitment to balance its public finances are also at stake as feeble growth threatens deficit-cutting targets in Europe's No. 2 economy.
The centre-right president, an impulsive showman, and his bland Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande, are neck-and-neck in opinion polls for the first round on about 27-28 percent. But Hollande has a wide lead in voting intentions for a May 6 runoff between the top two candidates.
Hollande, 57, promises to tread a fiscally responsible path, but his focus on tax rises over spending cuts and his call to renegotiate a European budget discipline pact has some analysts concerned that he would create a new euro zone stress point.
COMMENT: From what I've read, Hollande has no particular desire to go back to the confrontational attitude toward America of some past French governments. But he is a socialist, and his economic policies can profoundly affect Europe, and, by extension, us.
Stand by for the vote. We will miss Sarkozy, even if the French won't.
April 20, 2012