US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. How 9/11 changed religion in America (USA Today)

Politicians must display their Christian credentials, says Stephen Prothero, and for many, Islam is the sworn enemy.

2. The President's Do-Over (New York Times)

Ross Douthat outlines the first-term agenda that should have been.

3. How much has Obama learned? (Washington Post)

Obama must stick with an analysis of the nature of our political fight that sees it as it is, not as he wishes it were, says E J Dionne Jr.

4. Perry, Romney and Social Security (Wall Street Journal)

Amid their high-flying rhetoric, neither candidate is helping the cause of reform, says this editorial.

5. Social Security far from a 'Ponzi scheme' (USA Today)

This editorial mounts a staunch defence of social security. Elsewhere in the paper, Rick Perry reiterates his views on the matter.

6. As the boomers turn (Los Angeles Times)

Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg suggest that if more boomers are led to embrace the GOP, it could affect the 2012 vote.

7. A bad but realistic decision on EPA (Star Tribune)

Obama was forced to stand down on new clean-air standards by the GOP and the faltering economy, says this editorial.

8. The GOP's immigration nonsense (Washington Post)

This editorial is critical of the Republican candidates for dodging the facts at last week's debate.

9. An Impeccable Disaster (New York Times)

The moralizers, who hate the idea of letting nations off the hook for alleged fiscal sins, are sending the euro over the edge, says Paul Krugman.

10. Government static disrupts a phone connection (Chicago Tribune)

This editorial argues that the FCC and the US Department of Justice need to help AT&T and T-Mobile merge.

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François Fillon's woes are good news for Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron

It is too late for the Republicans to replace their scandal-tainted candidate.

It's that time of the week again: this week's Le Canard Enchaîné has more bad news for François Fillon, the beleagured centre-right candidate for the French presidency. This week's allegations: that he was paid $50,000 to organise a meeting between the head of the French oil company Total and Vladimir Putin.

The story isn't quite as scandalous as the ones that came before it: the fee was paid to Fillon's (legitimate) consultancy business but another week with a scandal about Fillon and money is good news for both Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

The bad news for the Republicans is that Fillon is on the ballot now: there is no getting off the train that they are on. Destination: blowing an election that was theirs to be won.

Who'll be the ultimate beneficiary of the centre-right's misery? Although Macron is in the box seat as far as the presidential race is concerned, that he hasn't been in frontline politics all that long means that he could still come unstuck. As his uncertain performance in the first debate showed he is more vulnerable than he looks, though that the polls defied the pundits - both in Britain and in France - and declared him the winner shows that his popularity and charisma means that he has a handy cushion to fall back on.

It looks all-but-certain that it will be Macron and Le Pen who face each other in the second round in May and Macron will be the overwhelming favourite in that contest.

It's still just about possible to envisage a perfect storm for Le Pen where Fillon declares that the choice between Macron and Le Pen is a much of a muchness as neither can equal his transformative programme for France, Macron makes some 11th-hour blunder which keeps his voters at home and a terrorist attack or a riot gets the National Front's voters fired up and to the polling stations for the second round.

But while it's possible he could still come unstuck, it looks likely that despite everything we've thought these last three years, the French presidency won't swing back to the right in 2017.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.