As French Election Nears, Le Pen Targets Voters Her Party Once Repelled
MARCH 19, 2017

SANARY-SUR-MER, France — The National Front’s leafleteers are no longer spat upon. Its local candidate’s headquarters sit defiantly in a fraying Muslim neighborhood. And last week, Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader, packed thousands into a steamy meeting hall nearby for a pugnacious speech mocking “the system” and vowing victory in this spring’s French presidential election.

“There’s been a real evolution,” Philippe Renault-Guillemet, the retired head of a small manufacturing company, said as he handed out National Front leaflets in the market on a recent day. “A few years ago, they would insult us. It’s changed.”

It has long been accepted wisdom that Ms. Le Pen and her far-right party can make it through the first round of the presidential voting on April 23, when she and four other major candidates will be on the ballot, but that she will never capture the majority needed to win in a runoff in May.

But a visit to this southeastern National Front stronghold suggests that Ms. Le Pen may be succeeding in broadening her appeal to the point where a victory is more plausible, even if the odds are still stacked against her.

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