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Sen. David Vitter cruises to easy victory in primary

Updated at 11:31 p.m.

By Aaron Blake

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) scored a resounding victory in his primary Saturday, overcoming a 2007 prostitution scandal and cruising to a huge victory over former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor.

In the other state holding a primary Saturday, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) has won his party's nomination for a special Senate election in November, leaving the governor as the odds-on favorite to take the seat held for 51 years by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D).

In Louisiana, Vitter will move on to the general election, where he will face Rep. Charlie Melancon (D). Melancon also had a wide lead in early returns and has been projected as the winner of the Democratic primary.

Ever since Vitter admitted to a "very serious sin" with a prostitute in 2007, his fate in this year's GOP primary has been a subject of much speculation. Traylor entered the race with a proven ability to win statewide (Louisiana Supreme Court justices run for their posts), but he soon succumbed to his own personal problems and never came close to competing with the incumbent financially.

Vitter led Traylor 87 percent to 8 percent with 37 percent of precincts reporting.

Democrats still think they can beat Vitter in November, thanks to his personal baggage and Melancon's centrist profile. Vitter remains one of two targeted Senate Republicans.

In West Virginia, Manchin easily defeated a field that included 95-year-old former West Virginia Secretary of State Ken Hechler in Saturday's primary. In the general election, he will face businessman John Raese, who ran away win the Republican nomination.

Byrd died two months ago, and Manchin appointed Sen. Carte Goodwin (D) to hold his seat until a special election can be held. Republicans hoped to recruit Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) into the race, but she wound up taking a pass.

Manchin, whose approval rating in the state was measured in the 60s recently, will be hard for the GOP to beat. A recent poll showed him leading Raese 54 percent to 32 percent. But Raese, who has lost in two previous bids for the Senate, can self-fund extensively.

The Senate race was the only race on the ballot in the Mountain State, but Louisiana also held a pair of high-profile House primaries.

State Rep. Cedric Richmond easily won the Democratic primary to face the most vulnerable Republican in the House, freshman Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.). And in the race to succeed Melancon, businessman Jeff Landry is headed to a runoff with former state House Speaker Hunt Downer on the GOP side. Landry was just under 50 percent of the vote, while Downer was at 36 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Whoever emerges will face attorney Ravi Sangisetty, who was unopposed on the Democratic side.

Cao's and Melancon's seats are considered two of the five seats in Congress that are most likely to flip control.

By Aaron Blake  | August 28, 2010; 8:33 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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