Macron Rebuffs Increasingly Nasty Attacks as Poll Strength Grows

  • Le Pen indicates she relishes second-round fight with Macron
  • Fillon campaign team rejects suit spending controversy

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is drawing increasingly nasty attacks from rivals as polls show he’s tightening his grip as the front runner.

The 39-year-old independent will appear on TF1 television Sunday after an image promoted on Twitter by the Republican party echoed anti-Semitic stereotypes of the 1930s as it attempted to put Macron at the center of a shadowy power network. The Republicans, who back Francois Fillon, withdrew the tweet and apologized for any offense.

“It’s the idea that there are hidden forces behind a given candidate,” Benjamin Griveaux, a spokesman for the Macron campaign, said on France 2. “It’s traditional theme of the far right and we’re more surprised that it’s a party who call themselves the Republicans that say it.”

The controversy is the second to involve attacks on Macron in recent days. Socialist lawmaker Vincent Peillon made reference to Macron’s appeal to both left and right as comparable to the thinking that led to the “gas chambers” -- a comment that prompted the Macron team to call for his ousting from Socialist Benoit Hamon’s campaign team.

Polls Tightening

The escalating fire on Macron reflects his increased support among voters. Multiple polls in recent days have shown him virtually tied with National Front candidate Marine Le Pen for first-round voting and all but certain to beat her in the second round on May 7, suggesting he is the most likely to become France’s next president.

Ifop’s latest daily rolling poll, for instance, showed Le Pen with the support of 26 percent of voters in the first round, compared with 25.5 percent for Macron and 19.5 percent for Fillon. The poll shows Macron winning a runoff against Le Pen by 60.5 percent to 39.5 percent.

Le Pen, who wants France to withdraw from the euro, indicated Sunday that she is already preparing to face Macron. Other candidates who call themselves patriots should support her against Macron in the second round, she said.

“They face a fundamental choice that will show how sincere they are,” Le Pen said on C8 television. “Those who call themselves patriots, who oppose the EU, those who say they oppose immigration -- if they find themselves faced with a second-round choice between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, which is to say a proud globalist and a proud patriot, what will they do?” she asked. “They should support me and my demand for sovereignty, freedom and defense of identity.”

Fillon, meanwhile, rebuffed reports on Sunday about doing business with an expensive Parisian tailor. The Republican candidate has spent 48,500 euros ($51,700) on suits since 2012, more than 35,000 euros of which was paid for in cash, Le Journal du Dimanche reported.

The Republican candidate’s campaign rejected any notion of wrongdoing and suggested he is the subject of a media witch hunt.

“Our candidate is passed under the scanner every day,” campaign official Luc Chatel said on Europe 1 radio. “How far will it go?” he asked. “The French are sick of this. They want a debate on the fundamentals.”

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