In the final days before France’s presidential election on Sunday, Emmanuel Macron was tramping through the snow high in the mountains near the Spanish border for a critical campaign stop near this tiny village where his grandparents once lived.

With the race exceptionally tight, it seemed an unlikely place for any candidate. Hardly a voter was in sight. Instead, what Mr. Macron later described as a “pilgrimage,” with some 20 journalists in tow, was in part intended to show his human side, to reflect his connection to a “terroir” — a definable place and personal history — that French voters could latch onto.

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