The case against an easy Menendez victory in the general election1 comes down to his current popularity — or lack thereof. An October Quinnipiac University survey put his approval rating at just 31 percent among New Jersey voters; 49 percent disapproved. Whether or not Menendez remains this unpopular following the lack of a conviction remains unclear. But any senator who has an approval rating of 31 percent should be in some danger of losing.
Yet, the Republicans who have emerged to challenge Menendez aren’t likely to strike much fear in his campaign. None has more than about $4,000 on-hand, according to the Federal Election Commission. Menendez has nearly $4 million. Ousting an incumbent senator — even an unpopular one — with no money is … difficult. That’s especially true for a Republican in blue New Jersey given how expensive New York and Philadelphia media markets are.
Why hasn’t a stronger challenger emerged given Menendez’s trial and weak approval numbers? It comes down to the fundamentals. There are just so many factors working in Menendez’s favor.