French candidates look for debate boost

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French candidates look for debate boost

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Both of France’s presidential candidates are claiming victory today after their only face-to-face televised debate of the campaign.

President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist’s François Hollande were on French radio on Thursday for follow-up interviews, and to respond to the public’s perception of their performances.

“I think there will be a massive second-round vote. I think the debate got a very big TV audience, so only a fool would claim a debate seen by 20 million people is unimportant. But never has there been such an undecided election,” said Sarkozy on RTL.

“Yes,a debate should be firm, should be hard, but should not be full of invective, because the French do not like this climate in a discussion. I really want to be a president of reconciliation, to rally the people, so I try to use my arguments without hurting anyone,” said Hollande on France Inter.

Some were surprised that Sarkozy’s normally dynamic and quick on the feet style did not come across so well. Sarkozy prickled, where François Hollande seemed poised, and did not rise to the bait. Others remarked that pinning down the Socialist is like trying to nail blancmange to the wall.

“What was characteristic was the first ten minutes that were ten minutes of intimidation and set the tone of the debate,” said political science professor Christian Delporte.