The jaws of the politically active in and outside New Jersey were left hanging Wednesday morning, as the just-released Rutgers/Eagleton Institute Poll showed Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., beating back Republican Bob Hugin by 51-46 percent statewide.
Although the incumbent's 5 percentage point advantage is above the margin of error (plus or minus 3.8 percent points), the Rutgers poll shows the race is highly competitive — something very newsworthy in a state that last sent a Republican to the Senate in 1972.
Both the survey and experts on Garden State politics agreed Menendez's trial on corruption charges (which ended in a judge declaring a mistrial) is the key reason for his precarious political situation. Former biopharmaceutical company CEO Hugin hits this hard and a major television blitz highlighted what the Republican calls Menendez "letting New Jerseyans down."
Rutgers found 38 percent of likely voters said the corruption trial would affect their vote on Menendez in a big way and 16 percent said it would affect their vote "some."
"The corruption issue does distinguish this race from others in New Jersey where Republican candidates have faded badly in the last two weeks," former New Jersey State GOP Chairman David Norcross told Newsmax. "Again it depends on turnout. The corruption issue may well significantly dampen turnout. And unlike past races, Hugin has and is willing to spend big dollars late in the game.
"For the first time, I am beginning to see a path to a Hugin victory. Having said that I am still unwilling to bet the farm."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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