What if, back in November, former French President Jacques Chirac had endorsed Hillary Clinton? American voters would probably think, “well, that’s strange” and then they'd move on with their day. So, do French voters actually care that former American President Barack Obama endorsed Emmanuel Macron in a video tweeted Thursday afternoon?
“Oh my god, yes!” says Paris-based journalist Adeline Sire. “Barack Obama, in case you don’t know, is a rock star here!”
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A poll released this week by the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston shows Obama with a 90 percent favorable rating in France.
And in March, a petition went around France pleading for Barack Obama to run for the French presidency. It has almost 50,000 signatures. The campaign, called Obama 2017, put up posters all over Paris, showing the former president’s face with a French translation of his campaign slogan, “Oui on peut” (Yes we can). You can even purchase an Obama 2017 tote bag on the campaign website.
Courtesy of Obama 2017
Sire says Obama's soaring French approval ratings come as many voters are unhappy with Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the two presidential candidates facing off this weekend. Macron is seen by some as the heir to France’s most unpopular president ever, Francois Hollande, whereas Le Pen has a reputation for bigotry and xenophobia. Obama looks pretty good by comparison. “[The French voters] figure Barack Obama has nothing else to do. ... He can just run for election!” Sire jokes.
Alas, the dream of a troisieme Obama presidency must die — only French citizens can be president of France — but “it would have been fun” says Sire.
The Macron campaign clearly sought to capitalize on Obama's popularity in France. On Thursday, it tweeted out the video message of Obama endorsing Macron just three days before the election.
In the video, Obama stares into the camera and says he decided to weigh in because the French election is just too important to remain silent.
“I’m not planning to get involved in many elections now that I don’t have to run for office, but the French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about,” he said.
Obama said he supports Macron because he appealed to “people’s hopes and not their fears” — a familiar campaign theme for the American president.
It’s unclear if Obama’s endorsement of Macron will sway undecided voters, but Sire says it certainly won’t hurt. Opinion polls show Macron leading his far-right rival by 20 points. The election is this coming Sunday, May 7.