PARIS - Nicolas Sarkozy, who would warm up relations with the United States and prod the French to work more, was favored to win presidential elections tomorrow - and to dash Socialist Segolene Royal's hopes at becoming France's first female president.
Despite Royal's fierce final blows yesterday, all final polls suggested that Sarkozy would win tomorrow's runoff and take over this troubled power from the aging Jacques Chirac.
If the polls prove right, France would have a president friendly toward the United States but not servile, who gladly shook President Bush's hand, but wants a deadline on pulling out of Iraq and wouldn't favor war against Iran.
As president, Sarkozy says he would loosen labor laws to make the stagnant economy more competitive worldwide - a formula that risks street protests by a populace deeply attached to its generous social protections. He promises to cut taxes but also to assert the state's interest in industrial giants.
Sarkozy would be the first child of an immigrant in the Elysee Palace - his father fled Hungary's communists after World War II - but would close France's doors to many immigrants.
He would also crack down on teen criminals and repeat offenders. Sarkozy's fierce language toward delinquents when he was interior minister helped make him Enemy No. 1 among black and Arab youths in the down-and-out housing projects that erupted in riots in 2005, an explosion over discrimination, joblessness and poverty.
Sarkozy and Royal offer starkly different solutions for France's woes. Royal, still combative and determined despite the polls, sought to portray Sarkozy as too unstable and brutal to lead the nation. She let out all the stops yesterday - the last day she was allowed to speak publicly before tomorrow's voting.
She said she felt a "responsibility to raise the alert about the risks of [Sarkozy's] candidacy and the violence and brutality that will be set off in the country. Everyone knows it, but no one says it."
Later yesterday, she said that if Sarkozy were to win, "democracy will be threatened." At a campaign stop in Rosporden, in northwestern France, she noted a security helicopter overhead and said: "They're watching us." Earlier this week, she raised the prospect of "civil war."
Police are keeping watch for possible unrest in poor, immigrant-heavy neighborhoods if Sarkozy is elected. Community associations say they fear an outbreak of anti-Sarkozy violence, such as car burnings like those that marked the riots on election night.
In an interview with the daily Le Parisien published yesterday, Royal said Sarkozy had "the same neo-conservative ideology" as Bush. She said, "He mimics the American president's technique of compassionate conservatism," which she described as pretending to care but failing to act when people are suffering.
Sarkozy has openly praised many things about the United States. Still, he calls the Iraq war "a historic error" and suggests import taxes on countries, such as the United States, that don't respect the Kyoto accords on global warming.
Sarkozy gently mocked Royal for being glum yesterday and called her Bush comments "extreme." Sarkozy's camp says that Royal's ideas are fuzzy and that she lacks enough experience.
"She is not in a good mood this morning. It must be the polls," he said on Europe-1 radio. Clearly confident, Sarkozy did not predict tomorrow's outcome but said: "I am waiting serenely for the French people's choice."