After pouring more than $6 million into the Garden State, Democrats have done nothing to alter its status quo. Robert Menendez still has a lead in the latest Emerson poll for the Senate seat in New Jersey, but it’s only barely outside the margin of error. It also leaves the incumbent Senate Democrat below the 50% line needed for safety as he struggles to overcome a corruption scandal that should have had Chuck Schumer looking for a replacement:
If anything, Menendez may be in a slightly worse position than he was before Schumer started pumping money into New Jersey through his Senate Majority PAC. Menendez had a lead in the RCP average of 7.2 points in early October. That’s down to 6.5 points now, and both Emerson and Rutgers-Eagleton put Menendez only up 5, the narrowest showing in six weeks. Worth noting: the margin of error on the Rutgers polls was ±5.1%.
The internals here don’t offer Menendez and the Democrats much comfort, either. Despite a blitz of attack ads from Democrats, voters see Bob Hugin favorably, 40/33, with only 5% having no familiarity with the Republican challenger. They see Menendez quite differently, with a favorability rating well under water at 34/53. It’s almost as bad on trust at 44/56.
At this point, Menendez is basically performing to his trust rating, which raises a key question. Can Menendez possibly get more votes from people who already don’t trust him — and have good reason to not trust him? Schumer had hoped to get around that question by making Hugin unlikeable and untrustworthy with his $6 million blitz, but at least so far it’s not working. Hugin’s pouring his own money into the campaign to bolster his own image and to focus on Menendez’ corruption.
If this Emerson poll is accurate, Hugin has room to win if undecideds break away from the incumbent at the end. In Menendez’ case, it’s tough to see why they would do anything else if they haven’t already decided to hold their nose and vote for the crook — even if that’s the desperate pitch from New Jersey media outlets.