Like Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy swept to power on a wave of hope for change. Sarkozy’s wave crashed on the global financial crisis and his own failings. On Sunday, the French leader faces a tough fight against nine challengers.
This has been a race of negative emotion and nostalgia for a more protected past: One of the world's top tourist destinations and biggest economies, France is feeling down about its debts, its immigrants and its stagnant paychecks.
To voters, the conservative Sarkozy gets much of the blame. While he's likely to make it past Sunday's first-round voting and into the decisive second round May 6, polls show his support waning.
They predict another man will trounce Sarkozy in the runoff and take over the Elysee Palace: Socialist Francois Hollande.