President Nicolas Sarkozy is blanketing France's top TV news shows in a prime-time interview as polls show him trailing the Socialist nominee before this spring's presidential election.
Two days after he jolted NATO by announcing France will speed up its exit from Afghanistan, Sarkozy was expected to focus Sunday on issues of jobs, taxes and state debt, which worry most French.
Most polls show Socialist Francois Hollande leading the conservative incumbent ahead of the election, whose two rounds are set for April 22 and May 6.
Sarkozy hasn't formally announced whether he will run. Much of the guessing game has been about when, not if, he will. But in the meantime, Hollande has been making his case hard on the airwaves.
Sarkozy's office had scheduled the TV appearance so he could explain measures planned after a crisis meeting with top labor and business leaders in mid-January _ days after many French were jolted by Standard & Poor's downgrade of France's sovereign debt rating by a notch from AAA to AA+.
After that meeting, Sarkozy announced a euro430 million ($550 million) plan to drive down unemployment and restart growth, including training for the jobless and new incentives to hire young people.
One of the main questions was whether Sarkozy would announce a hike in the value-added tax, already at 19.6 percent _ with revenues aimed to let the state take over payment of some worker benefits now paid for by employers.
Such a measure would aim to lower France's relatively high labor costs, make French products more competitive and encourage employers to hire _ helping to reduce France's near-10 percent jobless rate.
Marine Le Pen, the sharp-tongued candidate of the far-right National Front party, all but accused Sarkozy of being a washout _ and suggested the TV appearance wouldn't stanch his decline.
"He sure needs it," she told a party rally in the southern city of Perpignan. "The only problem with Nicolas Sarkozy's shows is that they're like diets: Each attempt works less well than the previous one."
"I fear the French have already wished Nicolas Sarkozy a happy retirement," she added.
(This version corrects date of first round of election to April 22.)