The lines are drawn and it is close. The first round of the French Presidential election of 2007 has turned into a competition against three viable candidates. Up to date poll results are available here.
The three candidates offer unique things to France.
Ségolène Royal has had a meteoric rise to the top, which she quickly wasted and is now struggling to remain second. While Royal became popular on her tough-on-crime approach she has lost support for her far left opinions on economic reform and even foreign policy; not to mention bad campaigning with numerous blunders. She managed to obtain the Socialist Party's primary nod with the help of her partner and father of her children who is also the head of the Socialist Party.
Nicholas Sarkozy is the primary candidate for the political right. Sarkozy, Sarko to his friends, has been noted by this blog for his tough-on-crime and pro-American politics. Many French are worried though about his economic reforms which would privatization many things the French have relied on with their 35-hour work week.
François Bayrou leads what is left of the center party Union for French Democracy. In the past the Union was allied with Chirac's and Sarkoy's Union for a Popular Movement. However, political disagreements and prodding from Socialists have convinced Bayrou to run for president. Bayrou can best be described as Chirac, the current president, the sequel. At first it was hoped by some that Bayrou would divide the right and allow Royal an easy victory. However, Bayrou has been rising at the cost of Royal.
Sarkozy is for all purposes guaranteed a spot in the second round. The real race in the first round is between Royal and Bayrou. The outcome will be mixed for the Socialists either way. If Royal beats out Bayrou for a shot at the second round, she needs to campaign much harder if she wants to defeat Sarkozy. At this point in time Sarkozy would defeat her in a close race. On the other hand if Bayrou beats Royal, then the Socialists can hold their nose for another five years and vote with the moderates and elect Bayrou. He would be a centrist president and keep the status quo (which is not favorable to the Socialists).
The American administration is hoping for Sarkozy to win. With Sarkozy in power they hope France and therefore the European Union will be much more open to cooperation on America's terms. However, Democrats like Howard Dean have met with Royal and voiced there support for her. If the Democrats in the future can take the White House with Royal as President of France, then cooperation may exist on Europe's terms.