In a headline that spooked headline-scanning algos, moments ago French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen announced that she is stepping down as head of her National Front party. What the headline ignored to add is that her leadership departure is only “temporary”, and as AP notes is just an attempt by Le Pen, who according to polls is trailing Macron as much as 25 points in the runoff round, to embrace, or rather be embraced by, a wide range of potential voters ahead of the May 7 vote between herself and Emmanuel Macron.
Cited by AP, Le Pen said on public TV that”tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate.”
To be sure, Le Pen has said in the past that she is not a candidate of her party, and made that point when she rolled out her platform in February, saying the measures she was espousing were not her party’s, but her own.
Le Pen has worked to bring in voters from the left and right for several years, cleaning up her party’s far-right image in the process. Facing a deficit of at least 20 points in the runoff round, the anti-establishment candidate will face an uphill climb if she hopes to catch up to Macron over the next two weeks, assuming of course that the polls are accurate.