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PARIS (Reuters) - If France's presidential election outcome depends on the popularity of the would-be first ladies, Nicolas Sarkozy and his ex-supermodel wife will be no match for his heavy-hitter rivals, the Strauss-Kahn couple, a poll shows.
Carla Bruni, who married Sarkozy after his election victory of 2007 and turns 44 in December, was trounced in the popularity poll contest versus Anne Sinclair, 62-year-old wife of Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who polls also tip as the man who could thrash Sarkozy if the two face off in 2012.
Italian-born Bruni, who has quit the catwalk for a career as celebrity-singer, secured 31 percent of voter preferences in the survey for Paris Match magazine, versus 65 percent for Sinclair, Strauss-Kahn's New York-born wife, a star television journalist in the 1980s and 1990s.
The same survey, conducted February 10-11 by the Ifop polling agency, suggested Strauss-Kahn could trounce Sarkozy if he ran against him, showing he enjoyed as large a preference margin as his spouse Sinclair commanded over first-lady contender Bruni.
Asked which of the two men they preferred, 64 percent of respondents chose Strauss-Kahn and 33 percent Sarkozy. The same poll showed 56 percent wanted the left to win the presidency, which has been in conservative hands since 1995.
The respective first ladies-in-waiting are no strangers to intense media attention and they face increasing scrutiny after recent sorties that suggest they could play active supporting roles as the presidential contest looms larger.
Sinclair, whose reputation as a heavyweight has outlived her role as the prime-time TV star who quizzed the creme de la creme of French politics, set the French media alight last week when she said she did not want her husband to do a second IMF stint.
The comments were taken as a carefully orchestrated signal that her husband will run for French president.
Bruni, who said in January she had never voted for the left despite spending much time with left-wing artist friends, says she finds politics hard going.
But she has been no less active than Sinclair, appearing regularly at the conservative president's side in affectionate poses as he seeks to convey a softer image.
Previous polls have suggested Bruni is popular with as many as two in three French people, but the latest survey offered a glimpse of how she fared when sized up against another option for the next first lady of France. (Writing by Brian Love, Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)