A new Quinnipiac University poll shows longtime U.S. Senator Bob Menendez holding a narrow six-point lead over his Republican challenger, former Celgene Corp. Executive Chairman Bob Hugin.
The Aug. 22 poll showed that of the 904 registered voters surveyed, 43 percent said they would vote for Menendez, compared to 37 percent for Hugin. That’s down from 49 percent for Menendez in a March poll and up from 32 percent for Hugin.
The main reason? Menendez’s ethics concern, according to Quinnipiac Polling Analyst Mary Snow. Twenty-five percent of voters listed it as the main issue, compared to the usual voter priorities of health care and taxes.
The U.S. Justice Department in January dropped its corruption case against Menendez after U.S. District William Walls acquitted Menendez and his close friend and donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, on seven of 18 corruption charges. The trial ended in a hung jury.
“As Sen. Robert Menendez sees his once-dominant lead whittled down to single digits, New Jersey voters are sending a clear message. They are troubled by the ethics cloud hanging over him,” Snow said.
Forty percent of voters said they approved how Menendez was handling his job in the Senate, compared to 47 who said they disapproved. And 29 percent of voters had a favorable rating of Menendez, compared to a 47 percent unfavorable rating.
And while 24 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Hugin, compared to a 20 percent unfavorable rating, 57 percent said they still haven’t heard enough to form an opinion about him.
“This poll confirms why Bob Menendez has started his negative air campaign well before Labor Day — he’s running scared,” said Megan Piwowar, a spokesperson for Hugin’s campaign. “New Jersey voters are sick and tired of Menendez and his support is deteriorating, while momentum for business leader and Marine Corps veteran Bob Hugin continues to grow.”
Steven Sandberg, a spokesperson for Menendez campaign, accused Hugin of "trying to buy a Senate seat."
"The voters will reject him," Sandberg said. "The people of New Jersey understand that the stakes in this election couldn’t be higher, and they want a proven fighter in Bob Menendez who’s not afraid to stand up for New Jersey and stand up to Donald Trump."