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Melancon Trails Vitter

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  With roughly a year to go until voters choose Louisiana's next U.S. senator, incumbent David Vitter is enjoying a comfortable lead over Congressman Charlie Melancon in terms of campaign finances and public-opinion polling. Vitter, R-Metairie, came out 10 points ahead in a statewide poll conducted earlier this month and is raising money at a rate of two-to-one over Melancon, D-Napoleonville. Campaign finance records for the third quarter of the year will be available next week through the Federal Election Commission, but Vitter is expected to report $1.2 million raised July through September, with $3.9 million in the bank. Melancon, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, said his campaign will report about $750,000 for the quarter and $1.8 million cash on hand.

  Bradley Beychok, Melancon's campaign manager, says the congressman raised a large portion of the money over the past month, since he officially declared his candidacy, while Vitter has been preparing for the race for at least a year. "This strong fundraising performance shows that Charlie will have the resources to run an aggressive campaign in 2010," Beychok says. "It also shows that Louisianans are ready for a different approach from a more bipartisan, disciplined, and honest senator." Beychok added that Melancon's fundraising haul this quarter "far outpaces what successful 2008 Democratic senatorial challengers raised during the comparable quarter in 2007."

  As for public opinion, this week national polling firm Rasmussen published the results of its first Louisiana tracking survey for the 2010 election cycle. Vitter notched 46 percent in the poll, Melancon got 36 percent, the undecided faction accounted for 13 percent, and 5 percent held out for "some other candidate." While he hasn't officially declared his intentions, Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne was included in the survey. He bested Melancon 46 percent to 33 percent, a larger margin than Vitter enjoyed in the poll. According to Rasmussen's summary, "Vitter's reputation was harmed when his name appeared on the client list of a Washington, D.C., prostitution ring. The senator has admitted to committing a 'very serious sin.' Some believe that could make him vulnerable to a primary challenge." — Jeremy Alford

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