Sarkozy fails to floor Hollande in French vote duel

By REUTERS
May 3, 2012 11:12

PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a last-ditch appeal to far-right voters on Thursday after failing to land a knockout blow in a heated televised debate with Socialist rival Francois Hollande before Sunday's decisive runoff.

Hollande, ahead in opinion polls by six to 10 points, was calm and unflappable during the nearly three-hour debate on Wednesday while the conservative Sarkozy, struggling to catch up with the moderate social democrat, was often agitated and tense.Commentators said the confrontation, watched by 17.8 million people out of an electorate of 44.5 million, was no game-changer and probably only reinforced voters' opinions in a contest that has been as much about style and personality as substance.

"It was a draw but as Mr Hollande started as favorite, he remains the favorite," wrote Francoise Fressoz in an editorial in Le Monde. "Mr Sarkozy did not manage to destabilize him, which was his objective from the start."

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