On Sunday, April 23, the people of France will go to the polls to elect their new president. Just days before, President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama appear to be signaling supporting for the two clearly different frontrunners.
While neither has explicitly endorsed a candidate or shown any signs that they will, both Trump and Obama have made public moves that seemingly indicate where their support lies.
Trump appeared to throw his weight behind Marine Le Pen of the National Front party early Friday morning when he fired off a tweet noting the impact Thursday night’s terrorist attack in Paris could have on the coming election:
Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017
In an interview on Friday with the Associated Press, Trump clarified his stance on Le Pen. Declining to directly endorse her, Trump explained that he believes she will likely win the election because she is “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
With her strong stance on Islam and terrorism, if any candidate will benefit from Thursday’s attack, Le Pen is the likely option.
In addition to some similarities in their stances on Islamic extremism, Le Pen was even spotted in New York’s Trump Tower back in January. While Le Pen did not meet with Trump during her visit, senior advisor Steve Bannon reportedly knew about the visit and reacted positively.
Speaking with CNN after the U.S. election, Le Pen lauded President Trump’s victory as a positive sign for France. “Donald Trump has made possible what was presented as completely impossible,” Le Pen said. “So it’s a sign of hope for those who cannot bear wild globalization. They cannot bear the political life led by the elites.”
While Trump campaigned on a message of “America First,” Le Pen has campaigned on promises to make France, “more French.” Although Le Pen’s rhetoric tends to go a bit farther than President Trump’s, the similarities between the two are staggering, leading some to refer to Le Pen as “France’s Trump.”
If Le Pen’s harsh tones and bluster echo President Trump’s rhetoric, Emmanuel Macron’s run bears a striking similarity to Barack Obama’s meteoric rise in 2008 as a young and energetic fresh face in politics. At the young age of 39 and with limited previous political experience, Macron is running as the progressive candidate for France.
The similarities don’t appear to be lost on the former president — although he’s stayed somewhat out of the public eye since leaving office in January, President Obama reached out to Macron on Thursday.
“The main message I have is to wish you all the best in the coming days, and make sure that as you said that you work hard all the way through,” said former President Barack Obama on Thursday in a phone call to the progressive French presidential contender.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 20, 2017
Kevin Lewis, President Obama’s spokesman, would later clarify in a statement that the former president’s phone call should not be construed as an official endorsement of Macron. Although it may not be an official endorsement, a former president directly reaching out to a French presidential candidate days before an election is still significant.
In addition to being a darling of the left, Macron has also openly criticized President Trump and his policies, specifically on the environment. “I want all those who today embody innovation and excellence in the United States to hear what we say: from now on, from next May, you will have a new homeland, France,” said Macron in response to Trump administration policies on climate change.
When French citizens head to the polls on Sunday, they may not leave knowing who their next president will be. Unless one of the numerous candidates can garner 50% of the vote, the election will head to a runoff on May 7. With Le Pen and Macron leading the pack as of now, a run-off could potentially see further involvement from Donald Trump and Barack Obama.