Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez has a 21-point lead over Republican Bob Hugin, 53%-32%, according to a new Monmouth University poll released today.
Menendez has a 38%-37% approval rating and has upside-down favorable of 28%-25%.
More than eight out of ten New Jerseyans have never heard of Hugin, retired pharmaceutical company CEO who is self-funding his race. His favorable are at 10%-8%.
“Let’s be honest. It’s very unlikely that these results are predictive of the final margin on Election Day. New Jersey voters do not tune in to midterm elections until sometime in October and fewer than half of the voters we polled now will actually show up to vote then,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “However, the current state of the race does speak to what is perhaps the incumbent’s biggest strength: being a Democrat in a blue state in a year that is looking very good for Democrats.
Murray says that Menendez’s recent legal issues — an indictment against him was dismissed earlier this year — has taken a toll on the two-term Senator. Among New Jerseyans polled, 76% said they were aware of Menendez’s 2017 trial that ended in a mistrial. Just over half (51%) of voters say they are less likely to vote against Menendez because of the allegations against him, while 41% say it won’t impact their vote.
“There’s no question that Bob Menendez is starting off this year’s race under a cloud because of his recent legal troubles. Many voters are already aware of this and have figured it into their vote calculation, but this information is news to some current Menendez supporters and could impact his support,” said Murray.
Hugin, who recently pumped $7.5 million of his own money into his campaign, has a tough road ahead, Murray maintains.
“If the Republican nominee can swing over every Menendez voter who is just learning about his court case, this race could get a lot closer. But that is a big ‘if.’ For one, many of these low information voters are unlikely to turn out in November anyway. But more importantly, it does not take into account how tenacious Menendez can be once campaigning starts in earnest. It will take a very concerted and effective messaging effort by Hugin to turn this issue into a net gain for him,” said Murray.
While Menendez has ethics issues to worry about, the poll also shows a slight vulnerability for Hugin, because his personal wealth comes from the often-unpopular pharmaceutical industry. The poll shows that just 30% say Hugin’s ties to big pharma will hurt him and that 58% don’t seem to care.
“The good thing for Hugin is that health care costs are not as much of a burning issue in New Jersey as they are nationally. The bad news for Hugin is that the Menendez team has yet to sink its teeth into this aspect of his background. The question is whether Bob Hugin is able to introduce himself to New Jersey voters or if Bob Menendez will get to do it for him,” said Murray.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone between April 6-10 with a sample size of 703 New Jersey adults, including a subset of 632 registered voters and a margin of error of +/- 3.9%.Monmouth Poll Senate April 12 2018