At a press conference Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said his opponent Bob Hugin’s delayed support of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was there all along despite the candidate’s claims that he was waiting for more information, first from the testimony of Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women that accused the judge of sexual assault, then from an FBI investigation into those allegations.
“He was for Brett Kavanaugh all along. Another fraud. When he told you in the press he was waiting to see the FBI report, he knew he would never get to see the FBI report,” Menendez said. “Only members of the Senate got to see the FBI report, and we can’t talk about what was in it. Might characterize it as I did, but you can’t talk about what’s in it.”
Hugin said he supported Kavanaugh on Thursday, after Senators’ reactions to the FBI’s investigation largely fell along party lines, with Republicans claiming the report exonerated him and Democrats claiming the investigation was a sham or raised red flags about the nominee.
On Saturday, the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh’s nomination, 50-48. Only one democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted in the now-justice’s favor. He was sworn in later that day.
Hugin justified the delay by saying it was prudent to withhold a decision until he had all available information, though he continued to say he was waiting for the results of the FBI investigation after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said they would not be released to the public.
Supporting Kavanaugh, even at the last minute, is likely to win Hugin some points with the state’s Republican base, which he will need if he is to beat Menendez in November, but it’s unlikely such a move will earn him any points with the state’s moderate Democrats or its few true swing voters.
A poll released last week by Farleigh Dickinson University found that the state’s voters opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination by a 15-point margin, 53%-38%, that largely fell along party lines.
New Jersey women in particular opposed the then-nominee, with only 22% supporting his nomination and 55% opposing the same.
That number ought to be particularly worrying to Hugin, as the state’s women – suburban women especially – are often the ones to make or break a campaign.
Still, there are weeks left before election day, and it’s possible that something will eclipse the now-concluded fight over the Supreme Court seat left vacant by retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, but Menendez will undoubtedly try to keep that memory fresh in voters’ minds.
“He’s a fraud, and he doesn’t want New Jerseyans to know where he stands. I watch his answers to some of your questions, and I hope you’re as aggressive with him as you are with me because I can tell you, he doesn’t define himself on anything,” Menendez said. “If you can get away with that, that’s great, but he needs to be defined on where he stands on all of these issues.”