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Vitter, Melancon win party nominations in Louisiana

By Steve Brusk, CNN
Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon, left, and Republican Sen. David Vitter were easy winners Saturday.
Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon, left, and Republican Sen. David Vitter were easy winners Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • GOP Sen. David Vitter makes his first ballot appearance since a 2007 scandal
  • Vitter expected to win 87 percent of the vote
  • Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon gets more than 68 percent of the vote
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(CNN) -- Republican Sen. David Vitter and Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon easily coasted to victory Saturday in the Louisiana Senate primary, setting up a November race between the conservative senator and the Blue Dog Democrat congressman.

Vitter, in his first appearance on the ballot since a 2007 scandal, overwhelmed two Republican challengers.

The Associated Press showed Vitter winning 87 percent of the vote, 80 points ahead of his nearest opponent, former State Supreme Court justice Chet Traylor.

Vitter's number was found in phone records of a Washington-area escort service, from before he ran for the Senate. He never disclosed details of his involvement, but with his wife at his side apologized to "all those I have let down".

Traylor was a late entrant to the race. When he announced his challenge, Traylor said that "we wouldn't be in this position if we had a senator who could get results."

He ran a radio ad targeting Vitter over "family values," and cited the arrest of Vitter's aide on charges he assaulted a female friend.

But with little money and questions raised about Traylor's past, Tulane University political science professor Brian Box said that, in the end, Traylor's campaign "never became anything."

With polls showing him with a large lead, Vitter spent most of his time in the primary focusing on the general election, not his Republican opposition. Vitter's advertising was "almost entirely against Melancon," Box said. "There was nothing against Republicans."

On the Democratic side, the Associated Press showed Melancon received more than 68 percent of the vote against two little known opponents.

The representative from Louisiana's 3rd District, who has voted against President Barack Obama on items including health care, said in a statement after the primary, "this campaign is about Louisiana deserving better in the Senate. It's about having a senator who works in a bipartisan way to put Louisiana first, not partisanship or politics. "

Vitter has tried to more closely link him to Obama, last week on his website saying "Charlie Melancon has voted with President Obama's big government, big spending agenda at least 84 percent of the time", listed 84 reasons to vote against him.

In his statement Saturday night, Melancon referred to controversies that surrounded Vitter, saying "as we educate voters about my positive plans for putting Louisiana first and contrast it with David Vitter's hostility toward women, veterans and Louisiana families, I know we'll win in November."

The Rothenberg Political Report rates the general election as "favored Republican," while the Cook Political Report outlooks the fall race "leaning Republican."

 
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