Sarkozy was on the right. Not even center-right, but right-right by French standards, so probably center-right by US standards. Sarkozy also was an incredibly corrupt industrialist. Chirac was also on the right (although more center) and also incredibly corrupt. People voted for Hollande because they wanted change.
The real lesson for the US is that a bad president (or really, a series of bad presidents) who wave the flag of conservatism and destroy a country will sour people's taste for the ideals they espouse.