It's the economy stupid - for voters in French presidential elections too
France was downgraded in mid-January by credit ratings agency Standard and Poors, though its triple A rating has been maintained by the two bigger agencies.
Though the S&P downgrade did not trigger the calamity predicted by some, it was seen as politically damaging for Sarkozy.
While Sarkozy is far more economically liberal than many of his predecessors, he has frequently railed against speculators. He intends to introduce a tax on financial transactions, even though the other big EU financial centres have no plans to do so.
François Hollande wowed his audience of supporters at his big rally in January when he declared «My true enemy is the world of finance».He too favours a financial transactions tax and he would also separate retail and investment banks.
Sarkozy stresses that many big economies are suffering amid difficult conditions worldwide, and hopes that his prominent role in trying to manage the eurozone debt crisis will earn him votes. He reckons that voters will see Socialist plans to tax and spend as irresponsible.
François Hollande says he would renegotiate aspects of the fiscal pact (which was agreed after a hugely difficult EU summit in December) persuading Germany's Angela Merkel to include more unspecified measures to stimulate growth.
Mrs Merkel will not approve of his promise to return the retirement age to 60, scrapping Sarkozy's increase of two years.
Marine le Pen of the Front National has been loud in her condemnation of the whole euro project. She wants France to pull out of the shared currency.
François Bayrou was a lone voice in 2007 when he insisted France should urgently deal with its deficit.....This time around he has a new authority.
The economy is stagnating and whoever wins the election, there are few options to kickstart it because of the constraints imposed by eurozone budget rules.