Poll: Menendez faces tightening reelection race, leads GOP challenger by 6 points

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGOP’s Obama-era probes fuel Senate angst Government watchdog: ‘No evidence’ Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips No time to be selling arms to the Philippines MORE (D-N.J.) is facing a tightening race as he seeks to hold on to his Senate seat in the November midterm elections, according to a new poll.

Menendez leads his Republican challenger, Bob Hugin, by just 6 points, 43 to 37 percent, in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Mendendez previously held a 17-point lead, 49 to 32 percent, in a March survey conducted by Quinnipiac University.


The latest poll shows a racial gap between the candidates’ supporters. Hugin leads among white voters at 47 percent to Menendez’s 38 percent. Meanwhile, Menendez is supported by 51 percent of nonwhite voters, while Hugin holds 18 percent.

Republicans back Hugin more heavily than Democrats support Menendez. Eighty-five percent of Republicans said they would vote for Hugin, while 74 percent of Democrats said they backed Menendez.

Independents are split almost evenly between the two, with 37 percent supporting Hugin and 33 percent backing Menendez.

Menendez was cleared of federal corruption charges in January, but the poll shows that the probe still hangs over him in voters’ minds.

Forty-nine percent of New Jersey voters said Menendez was involved in serious wrongdoing, while 16 percent said that is not the case. Among Democrats, 38 percent said he was involved in serious wrongdoing, while 25 percent said he did not.

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Overall, more voters than not disapprove of the two-term New Jersey Democrat, with 47 percent of those polled disapproving of the incumbent and 40 percent approving.

Hugin is less well-known in the state, with a majority of respondents, 54 percent, saying they had not heard enough about the Republican. Of those who expressed an opinion, 24 percent viewed him favorably and 20 percent viewed him unfavorably.

Twenty-five percent of voters said that ethics in government was the most important issue in their decision of who to elect as senator in November, followed by 22 percent who cited taxes, 19 percent health care, 14 percent immigration and 14 percent the economy.

Voters’ approval for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in the poll rose from 44 percent approval in March to 54 percent approval now. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE, meanwhile, earned a heavily negative approval rating at 33 percent to 63 percent.

Republicans currently hold a slim 51-49 seat majority in the Senate, while Democrats this year are defending 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016.

Menendez’s seat was rated earlier this month by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report as “likely” to stay Democratic in the fall.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 908 New Jersey voters over the phone from Aug. 15 to 20. The poll has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.

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