Real Clear Politics has moved the New Jersey U.S. Senate race from Toss-Up to Leans Democrat following a Quinnipiac University poll that gave incumbent Bob Menendez an 11-point lead, 53%-42%, among likely voters against Republican Bob Hugin.
The shift comes just two days after RCP shifted the race into the Toss-Up column after a Stockton University poll put the race in a statistical dead heat with Menendez ahead 45%-43%. A top national pollster, Patrick Murray, was highly critical of Stockton’s methodology.
Another poll released today, by Fairleigh Dickinson University, put Menendez six points up, 43%-37%. That brings the RCP average to Menendez up by 6.3%.
Sean Trende, the senior elections analyst for RCP, said the move to put New Jersey in the toss-up column was based on their policy of averaging public polls.
“We go pretty much strictly off of poll averages for Senate races, and if a lead drops below five points, it’s categorized as a Tossup,” said Trende told the New Jersey Globe on Monday evening.
He said that two of the last three polls for the New Jersey race fell within the tossup range, with the other barely outside of it.
“Whatever the internals of this poll may say, it’s not out of whack with what others are saying. And in the end, the nice thing about averages is that if we get a bad poll, the other polls will balance them out,” said. “As we like to say, in a well-polled race, the averages take care of themselves.”
The Hugin campaign understandably touted the RCP shift to Toss-Up as a big deal, with Hugin and campaign aides using social media to get the word out.
Other non-partisan groups that rate U.S. Senate races made no changes based on any of the recent polls. The Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia’s Sabato Crystal Ball rates has New Jersey in the Likely Democratic column.