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The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has been focused like a laser beam on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the past eight weeks. Less attention has been paid to other developments.

That said, the staff was aware that France was holding a presidential election this month and was somewhat perturbed by FiveThirtyEight writing that “Emmanuel Macron Could Lose France’s Presidential Election” before the first round of the election on April 10. Because that implied that right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen could win the election. Similarly, Politico observed: “The White House is freaked out that Putin’s next big win could be in Paris.”

Given Le Pen’s admiration of Vladimir Putin and suspicion of NATO, this was Ukraine-adjacent and worrisome news! Still, after the first round of the election, incumbent Macron came in first and exceeded his polling average. The candidates who did not advance discouraged supporters from casting their runoff vote for Le Pen. The pre-election polls proved to be pretty accurate, and the immediate post-first-round polls suggested that Macron had a large single-digit lead over Le Pen.

Nonetheless, the take industry seemed transfixed by the possibility of a Macron loss or a weak Macron victory. I listened to Michael Barbaro’s “The Daily” podcast on the French runoff election on Thursday and suffered from some cognitive dissonance while doing so. The entire tenor of the podcast was why Macron was struggling and why Le Pen was outperforming her 2017 campaign. New York Times Paris bureau chief Roger Cohen detailed all the ways that Macron had alienated the French electorate. He said that Le Pen was touching on pocketbook issues and that her support of Putin would not hurt her all that much.

At the same time, Cohen also confirmed the polling taken after the first round showing that Macron was in the lead. Barbaro also closed the podcast by noting more recent polling indicating that Macron had widened his lead to double digits.

The Atlantic’s Thomas Chatterton Williams also wrote about the French election this past Saturday, and I experienced the same cognitive dissonance while reading. He acknowledged the polls showing a widening Macron lead but nonetheless concluded, “Whatever happens tomorrow, then, the story of this election cycle is the appeal of the extremes against Macron, who just a few years ago burst onto the political scene as an Obama-like golden boy. That’s worrying for Macron, of course, and dangerous for the health of transatlantic liberalism more broadly.”

On Sunday, the second round of the French presidential election was held, and based on the tweets Macron barely eked out a victory:

“Holding off,” “staves off,” — sounds like a near-run thing! Except that Macron defeated Le Pen 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent, a margin of more than 17 points. That is not eking out a victory.

It is certainly true that Le Pen improved on her 2017 performance. Still, Macron was the first French incumbent to win reelection in a generation. He did so despite many missteps during his first term, including his conviction that he could talk Putin out of invading Ukraine. Meanwhile, Le Pen barely avoided not advancing past the first round, as left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon nearly beat her.

I want to be clear about what I am saying here. It is entirely fair to point out that France’s extreme political wings have gained strength in recent years. Gaming out what a Le Pen presidency would have looked like once she advanced to the second round is a proper journalistic exercise. That said, the framing matters. The tenor of the U.S. press coverage played down the polling and played up the possibility of the most disruptive outcome; I am not the only observer to notice this. In the end, Macron exceeded expectations. But the framing for the past month has been that Le Pen is the real winner. And that seems off.

One of the effects of 2016 has been for news outlets to overcompensate from their surprise at Brexit and Donald Trump and cover elections as if the populists will overperform their polling. Sometimes they underperform, however. And all I am asking is that the media remember that when they write their headlines and make their editorial choices.

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