PARIS — French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron spoke with former U.S. president Barack Obama on the phone on Thursday, in an apparent sign of support just three days before the first round of an uncertain presidential election.
Macron said Obama wanted to exchange views about the French presidential campaign and that the ex-president had stressed how important the relationship between the two countries was.
"Emmanuel Macron warmly thanked Barack Obama for his friendly call," Macron's party "En Marche!" said in a statement.
Europe still has love for Obama
However, neither is totally assured a spot in the May 7 runoff round as both conservative Francois Fillon and hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon were seen narrowing Macron and Le Pen's lead over them.
Provided Macron and Le Pen do make it to the second round, the former economy minister was projected to win with 65 percent against 35 percent for Le Pen, the survey for BFM TV and L'Express magazine showed.
It was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday before a shootout on Paris' Champs Elysees avenue that left a police officer dead and was claimed by the Islamic State.
The poll found that Macron was set to win 24 percent of the vote in the first round and Le Pen would get 21.5 percent, with his score steady from the last time it was conducted three days earlier while hers was down 1.5 percentage points.
Fillon, who has slowly clawed back some ground lost after being hit by a fake jobs scandal, saw his score in the first round rise half a percentage point to 20 percent.
Melenchon, who would hike taxes on the rich and spend 100 billion euros ($107 billion) of borrowed money on vast housebuilding and renewable energy projects, gained 1.5 points to 19.5 percent as he built further on momentum he has seen after strong performances in television debates.
If Melenchon makes it to the runoff, he is projected to beat both Le Pen and Fillon by comfortable margins although he is seen losing to Macron 41 percent to 59 percent.
The number of people surveyed who expected to definitely turn out for the first round rose to 71 percent, the highest so far during the campaign although that is nonetheless low by historical standards.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Sandra Maler)