Analysts Expect Menendez Admonishment Won't Have Big Impact On Election

Apr 27, 2018

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez

The Senate Ethics Committee has strongly admonished New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez for accepting gifts from a wealthy doctor and taking official actions related to his interests.

Political analysts don't expect it to have much of an effect on Menendez's re-election effort.

Federal prosecutors decided not to retry Menendez after a mistrial in his corruption case when jurors couldn't agree on a verdict.

Montclair State political science professor Brigid Harrison says the ethics committee’s action probably won't sway a lot of voters.

"Certainly his opponent will try to make hay from it but the reality is despite this letter being in Senator Menendez's file, what we see is that he enjoys incredible popularity in the state of New Jersey."

Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray agrees.

"I don't think this is bringing new information to the table. And the he fact that it's happening in April rather than the Fall actually helps Menendez a little bit. The only thing Menendez would have to worry about a little bit is if something new came out in the Fall."

Murray says that's what happened to former Senator Bob Torricelli. He was overcoming a similar admonishment in 2002 when a prosecutor's letter shortly before election day caused his poll numbers to sink and he abandoned his re-election campaign.

Seton Hall public affairs professor Matthew Hale says things are different now than when Torricelli pulled out.

“One of the changes is the time. We see scandal after scandal every single day in the Trump administration. So the bar is so much higher for anybody to care.”

Ben Dworkin, the director of the Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship at Rowan University., expects Donald Trump’s unpopularity in New Jersey will have more influence on the Senate race than the ethics committee’s rebuke.

“Even with the scandal that Bob Menendez has been working to overcome, I think most people find it hard to believe that New Jerseyans in 2018 are going to give Donald Trump one more vote in a very divided U.S. Senate.”

Polls show Menendez has about a 20-point lead over Republican Senate candidate Bob Hugin. As the election gets closer analysts expect that gap will narrow.