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As French election goes into high gear, it's Mr. Hot vs. Mr. Cool

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Hollande is benefiting from Sarkozy’s unpopularity and swimming with the tides of continued bad economic news, with high unemployment and no growth in the first quarter of 2012.  He contends that Sarkozy’s use of the terror and fear card will backfire, and that the French, after 11 years with Sarkozy as interior minister and then president, already see through it.

Hollande has in recent days taken pokes at Sarkozy, partly prodded by handlers who worry he needs to step up. At a rally yesterday, Hollande charged the current administration of “arrogance and conceit.” He said Sarkozy’s “excessive claims” were catching up to him, citing the president's assertion that he visited Fukushima after the tsunami, which did not happen.

"This is the first time in the history of the Republic that incumbent recounts a trip he has never taken," Hollande quipped in a comment reported in Le Nouvel Observateur.

Yet Hollande has been the only candidate to refuse an interview with Le Figaro, the center-right daily seen as pro-Sarkozy, saying he had the right to choose whom to speak with. Later, Hollande said he will talk to “all media” after Round 1.

France has 10 candidates vying for the April 22 elections, which narrow the campaign into a two-person race for May 6. Sarkozy and Hollande both are hovering at 28-29 points in current polling for Round 1. French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) polls show that the French see Sarkozy as more presidential than Hollande by a wide margin, but that Hollande is seen by a wide margin as more understanding of the French and sympathetic.

Biggest momentum is at opposite ends of the spectrum

The greatest movement or interest in the elections have been generated on the far-right and far-left wings of the political spectrum. Yet nationalist Marine Le Pen and former Trotskyite Jean Luc Mélenchon both hover around 15 percent and appear not to be in a position to enter the final round.

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