Marine Le Pen is winning over women voters who feel left behind in France
French women are starting to picture their next president as a divorced mother of three.
The anti-euro, anti-immigrant candidate Marine Le Pen has been playing up her gender as she seeks to convert a likely first-round victory into an overall majority in the run-off on May 7 -- and it's paying off. The 48-year-old National Front leader has already rallied some 2 million additional female voters to her cause since her last run for president in 2012 and she's betting more will follow.
"Women are the key," said Nonna Meyer, a researcher at the Sciences Po institute in Paris who has studied the National Front for 25 years. "These women often abstain and now they are backing Le Pen to protect their jobs and their security."
While women make up just over half of the electorate in France they are far less likely to turn out than men, offering a well of untapped support for the candidate who manages to tune into their concerns. Le Pen's pitch weaves together concerns about immigration, security, and the economic decline of many white French communities into a potent populist brew that borrows freely from U.S. President Donald Trump, blaming "the elite" for the problems of ordinary voters.
In 2012 Le Pen lagged behind with female voters, winning 17 percent compared with 20 percent of men's ballots. Now she's closed that gender gap, attracting 26 percent of voters of both sexes, according of pollster Ifop. That makes her the favored candidate among women for the first round.
"What she is proposing is really different, just like Trump offered something really new," said Cindy Blain, a 27-year-old pharmacist in the rural north east of France. "Maybe if we see Trump succeed, then voters will give her a chance."
The prospect of a populist president committed to taking France out of the single currency has pushed the spread between French 10-year bonds and similar-maturity German bunds to its widest in more than four years. The risk premium rose 3 basis points to 82 basis points at 12:58 p.m. Paris time on Wednesday.