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Barreling Toward French Presidential Elections After Toulouse Shootings

By March 31, 2012

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toulouseThe killing of three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers in Toulouse, France, by a 23-year-old Islamist gunman in the worst shooting spree in recent history there suspended a heated presidential campaign in the country. Now the candidates are picking up where they left off in barreling toward the April 22 first round of voting -- but there's no denying that the crime has altered the campaign landscape.

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Sarkozy says he is at last ready to unveil a fully fledged manifesto to compete with a weighty 60-point plan presented by Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande in January.

"You'll have a global project, with financing, next week," Sarkozy told campaign reporters this week.

The manifesto will provide bait to Hollande to come back on the offensive after 10 days of treading water, sidelined as Sarkozy took command over the shooting crisis. Opinion polls show the conservative has eaten into Hollande's lead.

...The Toulouse shootings, the first attack by a lone al Qaeda-inspired gunman in France, have nudged Sarkozy up in the polls, as 71 percent of French people judge he handled the crisis ably.

Yet while he now stands 1-2 points ahead of Hollande in some polls for the April 22 vote, Sarkozy remains 8 points behind his rival in surveys for a May 6 runoff.

That is closer than the 12-point gap of a few weeks ago, but may not be enough to secure Sarkozy a chance of winning, especially as the debate starts to return to economic issues which polls show are much more key to voters than security.

"The (Toulouse) drama introduced some extra gravity but has not changed voter priorities, which are employment, purchasing power, education and health," Hollande told the daily Le Monde.

MORE: What they're saying about Islamism in France in the wake of the Toulouse slayings


(Photo by Getty Images)

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