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Can a Democrat win the governorship of Louisiana? None has since 2003, when a Democratic ad showing Republican candidate Bobby Jindal with his skin tone considerably darker than in life helped Kathleen Blanco eke out a 52 to 48 percent win. And Louisiana, after twice voting for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, has been a solidly Republican state in this century's presidential elections. But Democratic hopes have been raised since last Saturday's all-party-primary, in which Democrat John Bel Edwards, a Baton Rouge state representative, led Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter by a 40 to 23 percent margin.

But that's not the full story. Vitter, from suburban New Orleans, had two serious Republican opponents, Scott Angelle, a public service commissioner from the Cajun country, and Jay Dardenne, lieutenant governor since 2010 from Baton Rouge. Angelle won 19 percent of the vote and Dardenne won 15 percent. Altogether the three Republicans won 57 percent of the votes while Edwards and two little-known Democrats won 42 percent. Under Louisiana law, any candidate who wins more than 50 percent in the initial primary is elected; if none does, there is a runoff between the top two finishers, regardless of party.

So if Vitter can corral all or almost all of the Republican votes, he's likely to win the November 21 runoff. But if his personal negatives, including admitted visits to a Washington area prostitute, cost him many votes, Edwards could conceivably win.

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