French presidential front runner Emmanuel Macron has a vexing problem and one that could well cost him a crucial debate victory on Wednesday, if not his place as France's next President.
The issue is that the centrist candidate is right. Or, in the context of the country's political spectrum, he is correct when it comes to the quantifiable merits of his pro-market economic policy versus the scorched-earth protectionism of his rival Marine Le Pen.
In fact Macron is so on-point that he has the support of every credible economist, analyst and business leader in France. And that is hurting him.
Let's call this the Brexit conundrum. In the lead up to Britain voting to leave the EU, it was hard to find anyone with an educated financial opinion willing to back Britain leaving the European Union. So overwhelming was the support for remain from business leaders and policy wonks that Michael Gove, a politician and leading pro-exit campaigner, at one point declared in exasperation that people have "had enough of experts."
The comment still has the power to shock because, in France as it did in Britain, because it is true- at least for a significant section of voters.
Le Pen has spent the past week gleefully describing Macron as the candidate of the bankers, the moneyed-elite and the bosses. Macron remains the clear favorite to win the election with polls suggested he will take 60% of the vote. Yet each time a French CEO, an analyst from BNP Paribas (BNPQF) or Goldman Sachs or an economist from one of France's elite universities warns of the danger of Le Pen's protectionism they only serve to reinforce her attack.
On May 2, the CEO's of 13 companies, including the CEO of French utility Veolia Environnement (VE) , tiremaker Michelin (MGDDF) , chemicals group Solvay (SVYSF) and tech company Atos (AEXAY) , published statements warning against voting for Le Pen. Goldman has predicted a run on French banks and a French and European stock market crash should Le Pen win.
Even those who don't like Le Pen seem to agree with her portrayal of Macron.
At May Day rallies across France left-wing protestors chanted "Ni Le Pen, ni Macron. Ni Patrie, ni patron" (Not Le Pen, not Macron. Not country, not bosses). Some 56% of voters who backed the far-left candidate Jean Luc Melenchon in the first round of France's two round voting system say they will not vote for Macron in the run off. Nearly 40% claim they would prefer to destroy their ballots than back a man they see as overtly pro-business, while about 16% say they will vote Le Pen. Melenchon won 20% of the vote in the first round.
The problem for Macron is that he rightly views the core of France's woes through an economic prism. Unemployment, which has run at about 10% or more since 2012, has eaten away at French confidence and fomented anger (and support for Le Pen) amongst younger voters, laborers in France's hard-hit rust belt and in the poorer suburbs of its biggest cities.
The causes of that unemployment are a complicated mix of work place inflexibility, punitive charges on employees and the loss of manufacturing jobs to foreign companies and robots amongst other things. Macron, a former finance minister, understands the nuances and has a tendency to complicated solutions.
That might work well in policy but comes over poorly in debates.
Le Pen's narrative that the problem is foreigners and foreign controls over France is the polar opposite. Her 'France First' solution, with its deliberate echoes of Donald Trumps presidential campaign, are backed up with little policy beyond a flat 3% tax on imported goods, but are easily digested. Le Pen has in recent days rowed back on her previously central promise to seek to take France out of the EU - a nod to widespread support for the economic and political union.
Macron and Le Pen will have two-and-a-half hours to set out their platforms on Wednesday. The debate promises to be a clash of philosophies and politics. Macron should do his best to keep it simple and ensure that it isn't also a clash of styles.