from one meeting to another, how Valérie Pécresse’s campaign came to a halt

Valérie Pécresse during the evening “The great debate of values”, at the Dôme de Paris, on March 22, 2022.

The longest hours. Saturday February 12, the eve of her first major Parisian meeting – she must hold a second, Sunday April 3, Porte de Versailles – Valérie Pécresse finds her team at the Zénith, for a dress rehearsal. She crosses the empty room, gauges the bleachers, as far as the eye can see. On stage, the technicians settle the last details of the decor, solemn and cold: three languages ​​blue, white and red which slide on the platform, a large transparent desk. His relatives, a dozen – including his campaign manager, Patrick Stefanini, his communications adviser, Geoffroy Didier, and his special adviser, Jean-Marc Zakhia – disperse in the room, while the Young Republicans are briefed on the moments -keys of the speech, which it will be necessary to applaud.

The penalist Francis Spziner, who came to coach her, sits in the front row. “My dear compatriots…”, begins the candidate of the Les Républicains (LR) party. The spinning lasts two hours, interrupted at regular intervals by the tenor of the bar, former lawyer for Jacques Chirac and LR mayor of 16and arrondissement of Paris, which delivers its courtroom advice: how to pose the gestures, the voice. When she comes down from the stage, she looks exhausted. Slight wavering among his advisers: “Valerie” is not ready. The day before, rehearsing her text in a Parisian theater, still with Spziner, she was much better, they reassure themselves. On D-Day, galvanized by the 7,000 activists expected, she will be able to surpass herself. They part shortly before dinner, worried.

A live “crash”

The candidate’s weak point, better on television than on the podium, is no mystery to anyone. But, in his entourage, they were very few to advise him to extract himself from the codes of the meeting to cultivate his singularity, to innovate. Everyone was holding on to this “high mass”this “sacred”as Nicolas Sarkozy had had his, in 2007. The imposing Villepinte meeting, during which Eric Zemmour made his “moult”, on December 5, in front of 10,000 overheated militants, also marked the spirits at the HQ of the contender at the Elysée, where people are getting impatient. “You have to split the armor”, repeat his supporters, who consider the former minister too cold and corseted.

The next day, the Zenith is crowded. It’s been a long time since the right, which has seen its militant numbers melt for ten years, has not gathered so many people, and young people, who bang drums and wave flags. Trousers and black jacket, headset microphone, Valérie Pécresse advances on the stage, mechanical. “like a robot” alarmed one of his “musketeers”, seated in the front row. “France, I love it body and property…, the more I travel through it, the more I embrace it…”, she recites, a frozen smile, slowly turning her head to the right, then to the left. Words from the Corrèze writer Denis Tillinac taken in extenso, but which suddenly ring false. Then, she forces her voice, martial, assuring that she does not want to resolve to “great replacement”.

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