The two contenders for French president have now emerged and for the first time they will not come from either of the main parties.
Pro-EU Macron is expected to beat right-wing rival Marine Le Pen in a deciding vote on May 7 according to polls, which were mostly right about the first-round results. But this election is about more than just liberal versus conservative.
Analysts say Le Pen's best chance of overhauling Macron's lead in the polls is to paint him as a part of an elite aloof from ordinary French people and their problems. With her promise to end all immigration into France, Marine Le Pen has not found that road.
When Mr. Macron worked for Mr. Hollande, he had a remarkable ability to persuade the socialist President to adopt a number of free-market policies - at least by French standards.
"I fought against (Socialist President Francois) Hollande for five years and can not back his heir", said 28-year-old parliamentary assistant Eric de La Fouchardiere, referring to Macron, a former adviser and minister of Hollande's, at an election night gathering on Sunday.
And now Ms. Le Pen has resigned as leader of the Front National and says she will run as an independent in the second round. In contrast to Le Pen, Macron favors making the European Union work better, overhauling state finances, reducing the social welfare state, maintaining the autonomy of the central bank and pushing more labor-market deregulation.
France's divided political mainstream, rejected by an angry electorate, united Monday to urge voters to back Macron and reject Le Pen's far-right agenda.
"Macron was there with all his showbiz friends", Mr Philippot said in reference to an En Marche! after party on Sunday at a Parisian brasserie. Like other commentators, Rush Limbaugh explained the results in relationship to the 2016 US presidential election, observing, "Y$3 ou're gonna be amazed at the political coalitions that have sprung up in France that, in many ways, mirror exactly what's happening in the United States". He has not only won the first round, but also withstood last-minute surges from Fillon and the far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Le Pen's National Front party, from which she distanced herself on Monday, has a sordid history of racism and anti-Semitism that can not be completely erased with the purging of extremists, including her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who formerly led the National Front. Le Pen has often complained that opinion polls are inaccurate and misrepresent her score, but not in the way she thought. Emmanuel Macron is the candidate who enables the French people to come together at this moment, which is so unusual, so serious.
But Macron's party spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, scoffed at the idea of Le Pen as an agent of change. "She inherited her father's party and we will undoubtedly have Le Pens running for the next 20 years, because after we had the father, we have the daughter and we will doubtless have the niece", he said, referring to Marion Marechal-Le Pen. She's been fighting for the same cause for years, defending the people.