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French press review 10 October 2016

4 min

The second televised debate in US presidential battle is judged to be "tense" and "personal" as Trump goes on the, well, offensive. Why have so many Republicans waited until now to publicly disown their contender? Here in France, can Nicolas Sarkozy successfully rebrand himlself as the spokesman for the silent majority in six weeks?

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The French newspaper websites all attempt to make sense of the latest round in the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Le Monde says last night's second televised debate was a tense affair, marked by an increased level of personal venom. Trump's plan was clearly to be as offensive as possible in order to limit the focus on his own obscene observations about women.

He made the distinction between his own "simple words" and the charges of actual sexual harrassment and adultery laid at the door of his opponent's husband, Bill Clinton.

An interesting approach for a man attempting to rehabiltate his image with women voters, especially with former president Clinton himself in the audience.

The Grand Old Party wakes up

The editorial in left-leaning Libération wonders how it is that the majority of Republican voters, and indeed party officials, have allowed their presidential contender, Donald Trump, to attack Muslims, black people, Mexicans, the handicapped, Syrian refugees, army veterans, without much more than a whimper of complaint.

Trump has been outrageously racist, a liar, a demagogue, he's ignorant, corrupt and probably mad, says Libé, but few Republican voices have been raised in complaint.

Trump's latest outrage targets white women and reveals the sexual hypocrisy of the Grand Old Party. Worse, the backlash by female voters may be enough to cost the Republicans their majority in the US Senate, due to be decided on 8 November, the same day as Americans choose their next president.

Those who have rushed to condemn Trump and withdraw their support obviously feel that his chances of winning are now infinitessimally small. Says Libé, they've decided that the only way to save the bath water is by getting rid of the baby. It's just a shame that so many waited so long.

Nicolas Sarkozy, man of the people

Right-wing paper Le Figaro looks at preparations for the presidential election here in France, with a main headline announcing that the gap between conservative contenders Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy has widened again, to 14 points. The latest opinion poll suggest that Juppé would get 42 percent of votes in the first round of the Republicans' primary, as against 28 percent for Sarkozy.

A lot will depend on how many people bother to vote in the right-wing selection process. Le Figaro says that the gap between the two main contenders closes as voter participation diminishes but with Juppé always keeping his head in front.

Only 16 percent of French voters say the are "greatly interested" in the right-wing primary, with 56 percent either little or not at all interested.

Last night former president Sarkozy addressed 6,000 supporters in Paris, telling them that he would be the defender of the struggling middle classes against "an elite for whom all is going well".

Le Figaro says Sarkozy's late decision to style himself as the spokesman for the silent majority is imposed by his desperation with just six weeks left for him to climb back to within reach of Juppé in the opinion polls. Hence his focus on ordinary folk versus elites, the real France against some false and unrealisable dream, truth against treachery.

Without naming him once, Sarko managed to accuse his main conservative rival of dishonesty and a failure to engage the real concerns of the ordinary voter. If elected, he has promised that he will not turn a blind eye on the concerns of real electors.

The new shape of the Catholic Church

Catholic La Croix sees the 17 cardinals named yesterday by Pope Francis as a reflection of the evolving shape of the Catholic Church globally.

The new men in red hats, the majority of whom will get to vote in future papal elections, come from the Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Mexico, Malasia and Lesotho.

There's a place for 88-year-old Father Ernest Simoni, who spent 18 years in various Albanian jails under communism, including 12 as a prison mine worker. He goes straight from being a priest to being a cardinal. But he has no chance of ever being Pope. Ernest Simoni's too old to run for the top job.

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