Imagine a world in which President Obama, Mitt Romney and Pat Buchanan were all running in the presidential election and Buchanan was polling just one or two percentage points behind the other contenders. Is this likely to happen in America? No. But it is happening right now in France. An article in the NYT indicates that in a recent poll, Marine Le Pen, “the expected candidate of the far right, trailed President Nicolas Sarkozy by only the slimmest margins.”In the midst of the sovereign debt crisis, Le Pen’s message is resonating, especially the parts about gradually leaving the euro and protecting French corporations from foreign competition. There are a lot of people in France today who think the sleek Gallic establishment of top university grads is intellectually bankrupt and morally rotten. A vote for Le Pen is a way, as George Wallace used to say, to send “them” a message. Worrying about a Le Pen surge, however, is easy to overdo. Both the French and the American journalistic establishments have spent decades wringing their hands over the fearsome potential that the French voters will finally go nuts and vote a Le Pen into the French equivalent of the White House. Via Meadia‘s advice: sit down, breathe deeply, and drink a glass of water. The French electoral system pretty much makes this impossible; if no candidate gets a majority in the first round, there is a second run-off election between the top two. Even if Madame Le Pen made it into round two, the very large anti-Le Pen majority would unite to deny her a victory — just as they did when her father made it into round two back in 2002. Over time, she could grow into a more formidable force than her father ever did, but that time is not yet.