Xavier Bertrand goes through the LR Congress, a very risky bet

POLICY – In football, we would call it a counter-footing. This Monday, October 11, Xavier Bertrand announced on TF1 that he intended to submit his candidacy for the presidential election to the vote of the members of the Les Républicains party, who will therefore have to choose on December 4 between the president of Hauts-de-France, Valérie Pécresse, Michel Barnier, Éric Ciotti, Philippe Juvin and Denis Payre. A position which is surprising, as the former minister, opposed to all forms of primary, has often suggested that he would not participate in any internal competition.

But the coup de force of a solo candidacy that could have been fatal to the right, Xavier Bertrand finally preferred the collective, two days before the deadline for submitting applications. It must be said that his initial plan, consisting in winning naturally by killing the match in the polls, did not materialize, even if he remains the best placed contender for the LR nomination.

“The easy way was to go it alone. I didn’t want to do this, because in my DNA there is the gathering. I want to bring together all the French, I must start with my political family ”, declared the president of Hauts-de-France, who on Monday saw an Ifop poll place him at the same level as Marine Le Pen, in 16% of voting intentions. What his supporters summed up as follows: “he is the only one able to qualify for the second round”.

Nagging grudge

In reality, Xavier Bertrand faced a dilemma. On the one hand, he had the possibility of going solo by depriving himself (at least at the start of the campaign) of the resources of Christian Jacob’s party and by running the risk of a dispersion to the right. On the other, he had the choice to go under the caudine forks of a party that he left with a bang (he justified himself this Monday by recalling that some on the right had not called to vote for Emmanuel Macron facing Marine Le Pen), and in which he does not really smell of sanctity, and thus risk squandering the political capital that he has patiently built up for months.

Because, internally, the grudge is still tenacious with regard to the candidate. Evidenced by the results of an investigation commissioned by the structure of deputy LR Julien Aubert, Oser la France. Xavier Bertrand collected 38% of good opinions there. Far behind Valérie Pécresse (52%) and Michel Barnier (58%) whose rating continues to rise internally. “He is close to Laurent Wauquiez, who remains very influential in the party, and he had the good taste to keep his LR card, unlike Valérie Pécresse and Xavier Bertrand”, analyzed a relative of the former European negotiator of Brexit a few days ago, savoring the “hype” that is mounting around Michel Barnier, despite relative discretion in the media.

A signal which shows that the game promises to be complicated for the president of Hauts-de-France, who took time to reach out to the Republicans, unlike his competitor from Île-de-France who has all immediately affirmed that she accepted an internal competition. To make people forget “Valérie Traîtresse”, the elected Ile-de-France also enlisted the services of Patrick Stefanini, François Fillon’s campaign director in 2016 to lead her own. She also called very early the members of her Free party! to start the process to join the Republicans; memberships will also be open until mid-November.

A lead that Xavier Bertrand will have to catch up, he who was whistled during the LR Young Summer School.

“When the right is united, it wins”

But the former minister of Nicolas Sarkozy is not leaving without assets. In the large survey ordered by Les Républicains at the start of the school year, 71% of right-wing voters considered him capable of beating Emmanuel Macron, against 56% for Valérie Pécresse and 38% for Michel Barnier. This could allow him to benefit from a sort of useful vote, in a context where he spares the right the worst-case scenario.

This Monday evening, several executives of the right-wing party applauded his decision and his sense of responsibility. “I welcome Xavier Bertrand’s decision. Tonight, the right is gathered around the Republicans. In December, our members will nominate our presidential candidate from among talented personalities. When the right is united and united, it wins ”, reacted Christian Jabob.

“If Xavier Bertrand had said, I am not in the family, I am making my way on my side, the right was guaranteed to have two candidates, and surrounded between Éric Zemmour and Édouard Philippe, was guaranteed to disappear in this ballot of 2022 ”, added Julien Aubert. It remains to be seen whether the activists who will vote on December 4 will be grateful enough to nominate him for the presidential election and thus validate the bet taken on Monday. Because in the opposite case, in football, we would call it a goal against your camp.

See also on Le HuffPost: Barely re-elected, Bertrand spoke more “to France” than to “Hauts-de-France”