Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn will return to France a free man, probably in the next week or two, after New York City prosecutors asked a judge on Tuesday to drop criminal charges that he raped a hotel maid in Manhattan. Before his dramatic arrest in May, the one-time French finance minister was the odds-on favorite to beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 election. Recent polls show that 53 percent of French voters want Strauss-Kahn's Socialist Party to win the presidency next year, and the Socialists are jubilant about his release. Is there any chance DSK can recover enough to win his party's nomination — and Sarkozy's job?

He's at least still in the running: Strauss-Kahn's legal troubles aren't over in France, as local police are investigating writer Tristane Banon's sexual assault allegations against him, says Andre Tartar at New York. But some officials "still think he may throw his name into a decidedly unglamorous slate of Socialist presidential candidates." And if he does, at least one surprising poll found that 57 percent of voters believe that DSK would beat Sarkozy. Don't count him out yet.
"As DSK court date nears, hotel maid may be seeking settlement"

There's no future for him in French politics: The New York prosecutors didn't clear Strauss-Kahn of rape, says France's Le Monde in an editorial (translated by Google). They merely decided they didn't have a solid enough witness to convince a jury that the "rushed sex" wasn't consensual. The case, however, has conclusively "lifted the veil on aspects of his personality, his relations with women, and with money" that solidly derail "his candidacy for the 2012 presidential election."
"Despite the dismissal, a ruthless business"

DSK might recover... but not yet: Strauss-Kahn is damaged goods for 2012, says Sophie Pedder in The Economist. This tawdry affair in New York has uncovered other graphic tales of sometimes consensual but "clearly brutal" sexual encounters, adding up to "just too much information about the bedroom antics even for the famously tolerant French." But if the Socialists win, Strauss-Kahn could start rebuilding his political career as a cabinet minister, or perhaps an "elder statesman" on economic matters.
"What sort of homecoming for DSK?"