PARIS — In the early hours of Nov. 9, Marine Le Pen was the first foreign politician to congratulate the new U.S. president-elect.
In the weeks that followed, the leader of France’s far-right National Front did everything she could to tie her presidential campaign to the upset victory of Donald Trump, claiming that she would be the next chapter in a global populist revolt against the “establishment.”
On the morning after the U.S. election, she took to the stage at her party’s headquarters outside Paris, heralding Brexit and Trump as part of an unstoppable worldwide phenomenon — “democratic choices that bury the old order and steppingstones to building tomorrow’s world.”
But a month before the first round of the French elections, Le Pen’s tone has markedly changed: no more President Trump — at least not for now.
Le Pen, almost certain to qualify for the second and final round of the elections, seems to be keeping her distance from her compadre. The word “Trump” rarely figures in her speeches and rallies these days, and when she squared off against France’s four other presidential candidates in the campaign’s first televised debate March 20, she avoided mentioning him in any policy discussion, despite ample opportunities to do so.
On a broader level, following the defeat of Geert Wilders in the Dutch elections last month, Le Pen and her aides even have shied away from their frequent forecasts of the populist wave soon to cascade through France and carry them to power. If she wins, she now says, it will be because of France and the French — not because of a seismic shift in geopolitics…
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