Tags: bob menendez | corruption | charges | new jersey | polls | support | defiance

NJ Pollster: Strong Menendez Support Means Charges May Not 'Stick'

By    |   Wednesday, 01 April 2015 10:22 PM

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez's strong defiance Wednesday in the face of a federal indictment on corruption charges and strong support among top state Democrats prove that "there's a lot of questions about whether this indictment will truly stick," pollster Patrick Murray told Newsmax.

"The Democratic establishment in New Jersey has been coming out full-square in support for Senator Menendez at this point," said Murray, founding director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in the state. "There's not going to be any pressure on him to resign or step down early.

"The lines aren't clear-cut," Murray added, referring to the 14-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury. "Given that so many people understand that Senator Menendez is a fighter, it makes no sense at this point to try to take him out — because that could come back to bite you if he is able to weather this storm."

Menendez, 61, was charged Wednesday with accepting nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from a wealthy Florida eye doctor in exchange for political favors.

He stepped down temporarily as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to fight the charges. He chaired the panel in the last Congress.

Menendez is expected to appear in federal court in Newark on Thursday. The charges had been expected for about a month.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Menendez has clashed vocally and publicly with the Obama administration on foreign-policy issues.

The indictment accused the senator of using the power of his office to benefit the ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen.

Prosecutors said that Melgen in return provided Menendez with luxury vacations, airline travel, golf trips and monetary contributions to a legal defense fund.

He had acknowledged taking actions that could benefit Melgen but said he did nothing wrong.

Melgen, 60, was also indicted Wednesday. His medical office was raided by state authorities two years ago.

At a news conference in downtown Newark late Wednesday, Menendez slammed the charges and accused the Justice Department of acting with political intent. He joined the Senate in 2006 after serving more than a decade in the House of Representatives.

"I’m outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me — but I will not be silenced," he said. "I’m confident, at the end of the day, I will be vindicated and they will be exposed.

"I have always conducted myself in accordance with the law," Menendez continued before declaring: "I'm angry and ready to fight because today contradicts my public-service career and my entire life.

"I'm angry because prosecutors at the Justice Department don't know the difference between friendship and corruption. They're dead wrong — and I'm confident they will be proven so."

Menendez's news conference, held in the ballroom of the Hilton Newark Penn Station, was packed with nearly 100 supporters, NorthJersey.com reports. Their cheers led the senator to pause several times as he read his statement in both English and Spanish.

Murray told Newsmax that Menendez has a number of factors on his side, including time and longstanding public cynicism among Garden State voters about the charges.

"He's not up for re-election for three years," he said. "The Senate's not going to take any action until the Justice Department ceases, so that provides him some cover.

"The question is why was it done at all," Murray added. "Senator Menendez is going to argue that this was politically motivated.

"One of the things that helps Senator Menendez in making his case — at least to the public, if not the courts — is that he's been subject to accusations before, and in some cases they have been shown to have been politically-motivated fabrications.

"That helps him," Murray said. "It gives him the ability to make the claim that these charges should be taken at face value. That buys him some time."

While Murray's polling shows Menendez with strong approval ratings statewide, Krista Jenkins of Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind poll said told Newsmax that she expected the senator to take some hits because of the indictment.

"It would be difficult to imagine that somebody who has been indicted at the federal level doesn't suffer some blow to his approval or popularity in the state," said Jenkins, the poll's director.

PublicMind will be surveying voters next week on various issues, including the Menendez indictment, she said. Their results show the senator to be "a little more divisive than some other political figures," including Democratic newcomer Sen. Cory Booker.

"I don’t think Senator Menendez is going into this experience with vast numbers of people in the state thinking positive things about it," Jenkins said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez's strong defiance Wednesday in the face of a federal indictment on corruption charges and strong support among top state Democrats prove that "there's a lot of questions about whether this indictment will truly stick," pollster Patrick Murray told Newsmax.
bob menendez, corruption, charges, new jersey, polls, support, defiance
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 10:22 PM
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