François Hollande has been clever enough to also cultivate a down-to-earth persona. He puts himself forward as "a normal president," according to Reuters, that will both institute reform and avoid over-spending, balancing the extremes of Left and Right.
The "normal" comments are a direct jab at Sarkozy, 56, known better for his marriage to singer Carla Bruni, with whom he is expecting a child, and the flashiness that dubbed him "President Bling Bling," than his accomplishments since he won in 2007.
Indeed, with Hollande’s continued assurance that he is a force of stability, and his careful avoidance of the money-wasting leftist stereotype, it is likely the upcoming election will be, as The Journal puts it, "a duel of styles more than a clash of ideals."
As The Guardian points out, those styles could not be more different. Sarkozy is edgy, cocky, but very charismatic. Hollade is grounded, cheerful, and often self-deprecating. And while Sarkozy is known to be conscious of his height, mirroring Napoleon by often avoiding photographs with those who are taller, Hollande makes fun of his own small stature, joking that his low center of gravity means he’ll more difficult to knock over.
Had it not been for the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal, Hollande would probably never have emerged from semi-obscurity. Strauss-Kahn was the favourite to win – convincingly – the party’s presidential nomination until his arrest in New York in May on charges of the attempted rape of a hotel maid. The charges were later dropped, but. Strauss-Kahn returned to France with his reputation and political dreams in tatters.
The 57-year-old, who is on the right of the Socialist Party, has always held the right cards to lead France. He studied at the prestigious Institute for Political Studies (Sciences-Po) and then the even more elite École Nationale d’Administration, the hothouse for French civil servants and politicians.
Mr Hollande countered that he did not want an “aggressive Left,” but rather one which was “reassuring”.
He listed the reasons why voters should give him a large majority: “Because I can beat Nicolas Sarkozy. Because I have a project for France built around a great hope; the success of young people.
“Because I have prepared for many months for this candidature and this responsibility. Because I know how to unify and have shown this.