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Melancon Weighing Race Against Vitter

Updated: 3:18 p.m.A report out of Louisiana on Friday indicated that Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) has decided to challenge Sen. David Vitter (R) in 2010, but the three-term Congressman would go only so far as to say he is considering it.“Many Louisianians have encouraged me to run for U.S. Senate next year,— Melancon said in a statement. “I am discussing this opportunity with my wife and kids and will be making an announcement in the coming weeks.—That is a very different position than Melancon took at the beginning of March, when he told a Louisiana newspaper he was unlikely to run for Senate.On Friday, well-known Louisiana political pundit John Maginnis in a report on his Web site,, cited multiple “political sources— who indicated that Melancon had made his decision. Maginnis said Melancon had informed national Democratic campaign officials that he would be getting in the Senate race. A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman declined to comment on that report Friday afternoon.While Melancon kept his options open in his statement Friday afternoon, the Blue Dog Coalition member also made sure to play up his moderate credentials, which will be key to his statewide success in one of the few states that has been trending toward Republicans in recent cycles.“The challenges we have faced in the wake of four hurricanes and a national recession are deeply personal,— he said. “I have worked to be a bipartisan leader that does not let party politics get in the way of Louisiana’s progress. I want to continue to serve.—If Melancon does throw his hat into the Senate race, Democrats are optimistic about his chances against Vitter, especially if the party can clear the primary field for him —wealthy businessman Jim Bernhard (D) continues to contemplate a Senate bid. State Democratic officials have been working to keep Vitter’s involvement in the “D.C. Madam— prostitution scandal of 2007 fresh in voters’ minds. Just this week, after Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) extramarital affair came to light, the Louisiana Democratic Party chairman called on Vitter to follow Ensign’s example and step down from his low-level leadership post.But Republicans say they are equally excited for Melancon to join the Senate race because they feel that his voting record presents a stark contrast to the conservative Vitter.“Having Charlie Melancon in this race would present a clear choice for Louisiana voters in 2010,— National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said. “On the one side you’d have a candidate who supports card check, voted for the stimulus boondoggle, and voted against tax relief while voting for the AIG bonuses. And on the other side, you have a strong conservative in David Vitter who has taken the exact opposite position on all of those issues.—If Melancon were to run, an open-seat race in his south-central 3rd district would be welcome news to House Republicans, who would move the district to the top of their target list. Even with Melancon in the race, Republicans have maintained that the district isn’t too far down that list.State Rep. Nickie Monica has already said he’s thinking about the race, but another interesting GOP name that has surfaced is former Louisiana Speaker Hunt Downer. Downer is the assistant adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.

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