With the Fillon campaign in shambles following a raid of his home by corruption investigators and the subsequent resignation of both his spokesman and campaign manager, and with the republican party now reportedly preparing to replace Fillon with former PM Alain Juppe, the big winner from the ongoing chaos, at least according to one poll, is the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron. The former Rothschild banker reportedly consolidated his status as favorite for the French presidency after an opinion poll published by Odoxa showed Macron coming first in the first round, pushing far-right leader Marine le Pen into second place for the first time since the line-up of candidates became clear.
Odoxa put Macron on 27 percent in the first round on April 23 with Le Pen behind him on 25.5 percent and Fillon on 19. In a scenario where Juppe was to stand in Fillon's place, Odoxa put Juppe in front on 26.5, with Macron on 25 and Le Pen out of the contest on 24 percent. Odoxa did not present a second-round scenario, but daily polls have consistently shown any candidate beating Le Pen in the May 7 second round.
The same poll also showed that should the 62 year-old Fillon step down and be replaced by the popular conservative Alain Juppe, it would be Juppe who would win the first round, with Le Pen eliminated.
However, conflicting Macron's surge, in another poll, this time the daily OpinionWay poll, it was Le Pen who benefited, seeing her lead rise by 2 points to 27%, while Macron gained 1 point to 24%, as Fillon lost 2 points of support to 19%. Even so, the poll say Le Pen losing against both Macron (62%) and Fillon (57%) in the second round.
For now, however, all eyes will be on what Fillon does next, and whether he suspends his campaign in the coming hours, as now seems all but inevitable. The two polls came as Fillon suffered the latest in a string of resignations among his close advisers and backers, and as a source in Juppe's entourage said the 71-year-old - who lost to Fillon in the primaries in November - was "ready to take part in the search for a solution". Macron presented his manifesto on Thursday and has been climbing in the polls since scandal engulfed Fillon - once the favorite to win the presidency.
Earlier this week, Fillon promised to fight "to the end" despite the deepening financial scandal over his wife's pay that could see him placed under formal investigation for misuse of public funds later this month. He has complained of judicial and media bias that amounted to a "political assassination". Several of his former supporters have since deserted him, saying they cannot support him given those attacks on the judiciary.
Earlier on Friday a lawmaker from Fillon's The Republicans party said a planned demonstration supporting him would go ahead on Sunday and would be an "important moment" in the presidential race. President Francois Hollande said late on Thursday that the rally, near a central Paris square dedicated to human rights, should not go ahead because it amounted to a criticism of France's institutions.
Following the release of the Odoxa polls, Bunds slid, and European stocks rebounded to session highs, making it clear that when it comes to the status quo's preferred candidate, former banker Macron is as good as it gets.