Bob Menéndez Race Tighter Than Expected
As Democrats and Republicans battle over control of Congress, Senator Bob Menéndez (D-NJ) is now in a surprisingly competitive race in a blue state where Trump remains unpopular. He’s facing a tough challenge from former pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin, who served as Chairman of Donald Trump’s state campaign and has poured in tens of millions of dollars into his Senate campaign. The Hill reports that polls have been all over the place with Menéndez ahead of Hugin by anywhere from 2 to 11 points. The Democrat is still favored to win a third term. There are almost double the number of registered Democrats as Republicans in New Jersey, and the state hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since the early 1970s. However, Menéndez must overcome a low favorability that stems from his past corruption case. In April 2015, the Justice Department brought a corruption case against Menéndez, who it accused of using his position as a Senator to benefit a Florida eye doctor named Salomón Melgen -- someone convicted of defrauding Medicare of more than $90 million. Menéndez calls Melgen a friend but vehemently denies committing crimes to help him. The trial ended in a hung jury, and federal prosecutors later dropped the charges against the Senator. Menéndez maintains the advantage going into the final stretch, and New Jersey has a proven tolerance for scandal. Hence, voters aren’t likely to ditch him for Hugin. However, the Republican candidate’s spending is making the race competitive -- even prompting the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to reserve time in Jersey. Menéndez may be ahead, but Inside Elections’ Nathan Gonzales points out that one poll has shown him in an uncomfortable spot for an incumbent -- and at the very least, in a tighter than expected race. More here.