French President Sarkozy’s party has suffered a severe defeat in regional elections, losing in 21 of 22 mainland regions. The rival Socialist party and its allies captured 54 percent of the vote. Sarkozy’s coalition finished a distant second with 35 percent.
The offices at stake, regional assemblies, have essentially nothing to say about national politics. However, the results are a good indication that Sarkozy and his party are in trouble.
There are obvious parallels between Sarkozy’s situation and that of President Obama. Both are charismatic figures (Obama more so) who recently were swept into office amidst great hope. Both seek major transformation, though in different directions. Both have seen their popularity plummet, with Sarkozy, whose approval rating is only 36 percent, taking the greater hit. And now, both leaders have seen their party take electoral hits, though in Obama’s case the hits have thus far been limited.
So, in the U.S. a new president loses popularity as he drives his country to the left. Meanwhile, his French counterpart (to oversimplify) loses popularity as he tries to steer his country on a more centrist, less entitled course.
What does it mean? I think it means that it’s tough to be president during an economic crisis, and tougher still when the president seeks to bring about major change that cuts against the national grain.
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