“We’ve got to reduce immigration to its strict minimum,” he said. “Our country is not a sum of communities, it is an identity!”[A Candidate Rises on Vows to Control Islam and Immigration. This Time in France. by Adam Nossiter, November 25, 2016]However, Fillon, unlike Le Pen, is campaigning more as an American style conservative in that he also wants to slash the public sector and cut government. He calls himself a "Thatcherite," which is a remarkable thing in France. Thus, we have a showdown between Le Pen style nationalists who want to preserve social programs for the French people and conservatives who want "limited government" and traditional social values.
Assuming both Fillon and Le Pen make it to the final round, which is likely if the French Left continues its implosion, the outcome of this contest may tell us something about how the showdown between Paul Ryan conservatives and Trump style nationalists will play out here.
[T]he most likely result of 2017’s first round of voting is a runoff vote between the two rightists, with the Gaullist battling it out against the upstart xenophobe.
Current polling shows a massive Fillon lead over Le Pen in a head-to-head contest, roughly on par with the amount by which he beat Juppé. The most likely outcome is that he maintains a lead, owing to the FN’s toxic reputation with mainstream voters.
But his win is by no means inevitable.
“Whether Fillon wins [in a head to head] becomes an even-money proposition, regardless of the poll that came out today that shows him winning two to one against Le Pen,” Goldhammer says. “I don’t think that’s going to last.”
Economics are the key dividing issue. Le Pen embraces an approach that scholars call “welfare chauvinism,” a defense of the French welfare state as something only French people should enjoy. This means dramatically slashing immigration but also preserving the key institutions of the French welfare state (like high levels of state employment).
Right now, the anti–Le Pen sentiment depends on the perception that she’s an anti-immigrant extremist and borderline racist. This, Goldhammer suggests, can only last so long as centrist and left-wing voters avoid taking a hard look at Fillon’s platform.
Once people fully understand that there isn’t much difference between him and Le Pen on immigration and multiculturalism, they may well choose to vote for her to save the welfare state.
“He’s going to need votes from the left and the center,” Goldhammer says. “If he sticks with his hard-right platform ... I don’t see what the attraction is there.”François Fillon, the right-wing hard-liner who just won a major French election, explained, Vox, November 28, 2016,