The Presidential Elections in the United States and France

Justin Vaïsse
Justin Vaïsse Former Brookings Expert, Director, Policy Planning Staff - French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs

February 9, 2012

As both French and U.S. presidents are set to face elections this year, Justin Vaisse argues that, although some similar electoral topics will be of importance, the issues to be addressed will be very different. Debt, deficit and the economy are, by all accounts, going to be central problems in both elections. However, due to the structural differences between France and the United States, the characteristics of both elections are predictably going to be very different. For instance, the French debate will be centered on the type of measures the state can take to fix the economy, whereas the U.S. elections will be more focused on the scope and size of the Federal government.

In this regard, Romney faces a dilemma as he needs to lean to the right in the Republican primaries while simultaneously leaving the door open to later win over independent voters in order to have a chance to defeat Obama. In other words, he has to reassure Tea Parties supporters on the need to roll-back the expansion of the Federal government while addressing the anger and frustration towards Wall Street as well as rising inequality. Justin Vaisse further argues that the 2010 Supreme Court decision on campaign financing, by allowing candidates to raise unlimited funds through Super PAC’s, has significantly transformed the features of U.S. presidential elections. Nonetheless, however important money will be in that election, the name of the next president will still depend on the dynamics of the economy.

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