Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Poll: Menendez Politically Unpopular but Not Dead

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Poll: Menendez Politically Unpopular but Not Dead

Article excerpt

A new poll says that Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, fresh off a federal corruption trial that ended in a hung jury, is less popular than ever before, but several factors are working in his favor should he decide to run for re-election next year.

Only 20 percent of New Jersey residents have a favorable view of Menendez, versus 33 percent with an unfavorable view and 41 percent with no opinion, and about half think he does not deserve a third full term in the Senate, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Thursday.

The poll also said that 49 percent of residents think Menendez should resign in light of his recent trial.

But his support among Democrats and left-leaning voters remains solid, and every major Democratic power broker in the state — even his rumored rivals — endorsed him for re-election after a federal judge declared a mistrial in his corruption case last month.

In a state where Democrats hold an 800,000 voter registration advantage and no prominent Republican has yet announced plans to challenge him, Menendez can glimpse a path to re-election despite the public's souring on him.

"Menendez will still be a formidable candidate for re-election for a number of reasons," Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, said in a statement. "He may still have some bumps in the road ahead, but as of now, he is well funded, has ample constituent experience and there is no well-known Republican opponent in sight."

Still, major challenges lay ahead for Menendez, who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993 before filling the Senate seat vacated by Jon Corzine in 2006.

Federal prosecutors are yet to decide whether to retry him on charges that he did official favors for a wealthy Florida eye doctor in exchange for lavish gifts and political contributions.

Such a trial could coincide with his re-election bid. Menendez is also the subject of an ethics investigation in the Senate. …

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