Don’t you just hate foreign interference in elections? Barack Obama did — until he didn’t. The former president stepped out of retirement to re-enter politics, only in France rather than the US, to make a formal endorsement of Emmanuel Macron, the presidential candidate running against nationalist Marine LePen:
Obama has just endorsed Emmanuel Macron 👇 pic.twitter.com/D1zmMsGhok
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 4, 2017
“The French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about,” Obama said in the video. “Because the success of France matters to the entire world.”
“I have admired the campaign that Emmanuel Macron has run,” Obama said. “He has stood up for liberal values. He put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world, and he is committed to a better future for the French people. He appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears.
“Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know that I am supporting to lead you forward. En Marche! Vive la France.” En Marche! (Onward) refers to the political party founded by Macron last year, an independent coalition that seeks to blend the fiscal responsibility of the right with the social liberalism of the left.
Just how anxious should Macron have been in getting this esteemed endorsement? It didn’t do much for Hillary Clinton last year in the US, or for most other Democrats for that matter. The Washington Post also points out that Obama jumped into the Brexit referendum while president to endorse No, and wound up on the losing end there, too. He also took some criticism for interfering in an election of an ally not long after accusing Benjamin Netanyahu of doing the same thing by speaking to Congress in opposition to the deal with Iran. In fact, Obama’s State Department spent a lot of money interfering with Netanyahu’s last election, and Obama still wound up on the losing side.
It’s not clear who Obama thought to convince with this endorsement anyway. Nationalists backing Le Pen are certainly not enamored enough with Obama to change their minds, and Macron voters don’t need any further convincing. Most voters in free countries tend to resent foreigners with little comprehension of their domestic politics telling them how to vote, and one would imagine the French might be even more inclined to offense. This endorsement seems to be more about Obama himself than the French, attempting to make himself relevant again after finding that America has largely rejected his legacy in the last election.
If nothing else, it gives Obama a chance to break his streak. Macron is widely expected to win handily tomorrow. Polling has Macron up by 20 points over Le Pen, although a social-media analysis cited by CBS puts them more evenly matched:
Hours before the rivals faced off in a heated, personality-bashing TV debate on Wednesday evening, a social media company released data suggesting the diametrically opposed candidates enjoy near-equal support.
SocialFlow co-founder Frank Speiser says data on mentions of both candidates on Facebook and other social media platforms in the week leading up to the election suggest they are running in a “virtual dead heat,” and thus, “any attempts to call an early victor in the election now would be absolute conjecture.”
While SocialFlow’s data do not discern between positive and negative mentions on Facebook, Speiser says the company used similar methodology to accurately predict Britain’s vote to break away from the European Union (Brexit), “to the exact percentage,” and Mr. Trump’s landslide win in November — both of which took most traditional pollsters by surprise.
Speiser tells CBS News that SocialFlow’s data seem to reveal voter intent that traditional polling effectively misses. It does that, he says, by guaging [sic] the attitudes of people “who tend not to engage in the political process.” In other words, first time voters and others who are “not the type of people who would ever respond to a poll.”
If that’s true — odds are small but not non-existent on that — then Obama’s interference might actually have an impact on the election. And that should have Macron worried.