He is standing to the right of Valérie Pécresse, his hands behind his back, black suit and tie. Her face is hidden behind a mask but her eyes, dark too, and troubled, sometimes escape, slide into the void. What is he thinking, Xavier Bertrand, at this moment? What is he thinking when listening to the president of the Ile-de-France region speak behind her desk, congratulate himself on being qualified for the second round of the ballot and talk about this presidential election for which he has been methodically preparing for six? years, convinced that it was his moment?
It was through an SMS from his advisor Vincent Chriqui, present at the count alongside the boss of the Republican party (LR) Christian Jacob, that Xavier Bertrand learned of the results, Thursday, December 2, shortly after 2:30 p.m. “Good folks, we are fourth”, he launches, before raising his head towards his supporters, gathered at his HQ, in the 17e district of Paris.
Around him, the communicator Michel Bettan, who has been accompanying him since his first ministerial post in 2004, Jean Spiri, the linchpin of his La Manufacture movement, Tiphaine Mercier, his press advisor, as well as a handful of elected officials, including Julien Dive and Pierre-Henri Dumont. They all look at each other, dumbfounded. “We did our best, I had no other solution than to participate in this congress, there are no regrets to be had”, let go of the defeated candidate, before leaving by car for the headquarters of Valérie Pécresse, to whom he immediately gave his support.
It’s finish. For the one who has long believed to be able to impose himself as the natural candidate of the right, the verdict of the militant ballot boxes is cruel: he comes fourth, with 22.36% of the vote, behind Eric Ciotti, Valérie Pécresse and Michel Barnier, at the end of a lightning campaign where the suspense will have lasted until the end. If he was one of the most prepared candidates, Xavier Bertrand has paid cash for a zigzag strategy since his departure from LR in 2017, when Laurent Wauquiez, whom he then considers too right-handed, takes the lead.
“I take all the risks”
Starting first in the presidential race, by formalizing his candidacy in March, he thinks of widening the gap with his rivals and thus avoiding submitting to any tie-breaking process, a source of « division ». His resounding victory in the regional elections in June – he lowered the National Rally (RN) by 20 points and tripped the Macronist list made up of five ministers – confirmed him in this strategy of the lone rider, making him appear as the best bulwark in the world. far-right party and main opponent of Emmanuel Macron.
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