PARIS, May 3 (Reuters) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy
and Socialist Francois Hollande clashed repeatedly in their only
television debate but the conservative incumbent failed to land
a knockout blow to shake his challenger’s lead for Sunday’s
Hollande, ahead in opinion polls by six to 10 points, seemed
calm and unflappable during the nearly three-hour debate on
Wednesday while Sarkozy, struggling to catch up with the
moderate social democrat, was often agitated and tense.
Political commentators said the confrontation was no
game-changer and probably only reinforced voters’ opinions of
their two champions in a contest that has been as much about
style and personality as substance.
“This debate should not shift things and as Francois
Hollande is in the position of favourite, he’s the one that
should benefit,” said analyst Jerome Fourquet at pollster Ifop.
French television commentators concluded that Sarkozy had
performed “like a boxer” and Hollande “like a judo fighter”,
using touches of wit and interjections to unbalance his