So it looks like Nicolas Sarkozy is gearing up to announce his formal campaign for reelection tomorrow.
In one sense, the optics will be horrible given Moody’s Monday downgrade — in one fell swoop, the credit ratings agency downgraded Spain, Italy, Portgual and others, while shifting the outlook on France’s current Aaa rating to “negative.” Standard and Poor’s downgraded France’s credit rating from Aaa to Aa last month, in what was seen as a stinging rebuke to Sarkozy.
But then again, it’s long seemed clear that the European debt crisis could also be Sarkozy’s key to victory.
With German chancellor Angela Merkel’s unprecedentedly active support in tow, it has appeared over the past months that Sarkozy would run for reelection on the following basis: Sarkozy is a senior statesman, working in concert with Merkel and IMF head Christine Lagarde (pictured above) to save Europe, the European Union and the euro itself. Despite Sarkozy’s tendency to view himself in the grandest terms possible (recall the big plans from the 2007 election — e.g. labour reform, industry reform, the Mediterranean Union), there is a strong case to be made that, in fact, Europe’s balance will turn on the results of this election. Hollande’s election could potentially spark a new round of angst in the ongoing European debt morass.
It also would appear that the reason Sarkozy’s reelection announcement was delayed until just 67 days before the first round of voting was to give the impression that he’s been too busy dealing with the weightier questions of European salvation to worry about the petty political concerns of running for office.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Sarkozy started to peel back the curtain of the issues upon which he’ll campaign: initially, a referendum on the status of illegal immigrants and a push to limit the extension of unemployment benefits. It’s a clear sign that the Sarkozy team is more concerned with taking votes away from Front National candidate Marine Le Pen before squaring off against Parti Socialiste candidate François Hollande.
The approach seems a bit schizophrenic in light of a campaign designed to paint Sarkozy as the statesman whose reelection provides the best hope for forestalling a deeper economic crisis in France and in Europe.
Indeed, the approach is causing skepticism from across Europe:
The truth is that all the characteristics that made Sarkozy so appealing to a majority five years ago have become his frailties: his energy has turned into restlessness, his casual style into tastelessness, his pragmatism into cynicism and lack of conviction. There is intense Sarkozy fatigue in France. Whatever his formidable talent as a campaigner, it will be hard to dispel.
The announcement tomorrow will be Sarkozy’s one clear moment in the campaign to articulate a clear rationale for reelection and to forecast which theme will figure most prominently over the next two months.