Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Macron's Startup-Style Campaign Upends French Expectations

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Macron's Startup-Style Campaign Upends French Expectations

Article excerpt

POITIERS, France * Whether or not Emmanuel Macron wins the French presidency in next Sunday's runoff, he has already accomplished the unthinkable.

That's thanks to an unorthodox, American-style grass-roots campaign, which has harvested ideas from the left and the right, tossed them with a dose of startup culture and business school acumen and produced a political phenomenon. Without a party to back him up or any experience stumping for votes, Macron, 39, came out on top of the first round of the French presidential vote, winning more than 8 million voters and overturning decades of French political expectations.

An inside look by The Associated Press at Macron's campaign found a mix of high-tech savvy, political naivete and a jarring disconnect between his multilingual, well-traveled campaign team and a mass of ordinary voters who have never left France and fear being crushed by immigration and job losses.

"It's not a done deal," campaign spokeswoman Laurence Haim told The AP during a campaign trip Saturday, careful to insist that, despite polls naming Macron the election favorite, risks remained. "We are extremely cautious."

The centrist Macron is facing off against far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential runoff.

Detractors dub Macron a bubble that, if elected, would deflate and self-destruct at the first national crisis. Le Pen labels him a puppet of the borderless financial and political elite at a time when many workers feel like globalization roadkill.

Le Pen's campaign is unusual in its own ways. She has broadened her support base far beyond the xenophobic old guard associated with her National Front party when her father Jean-Marie was in charge. Today the people stumping for Le Pen votes at farmers' markets and university campuses include the children of immigrants, academics, gays and former communists. She is also campaigning in her own name not that of her party, a clear bid to distance herself from its past stigma.

Macron's team wants to puncture the heterogeneous image of Le Pen's campaign, and paints her as a closed-minded nationalist with a dangerous populist vision. …

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