Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., finally got some good news Wednesday in his uncomfortably close race against well-funded Republican challenger Bob Hugin.
The senator leads the former pharmaceutical executive by 11 percentage points, 53 percent to 42 percent, among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Menendez has a nearly 20-point edge among women and garners support from 93 percent of his party's likely voters despite major image problems fueled by corruption accusations, the survey found.
The result is likely to allow Menendez and national Democrats to let out a sigh of relief — however small — after two other surveys in recent days showed a tighter race. A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released Wednesday found a 5-percentage-point edge among likely voters for the senator. A Stockton University survey of likely voters found a slimmer edge of 2 percentage points.
The Quinnipiac poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points, while the Fairleigh Dickinson and Stockton surveys both have margins of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
Menendez is still in for a fight, however. Electoral trends favor Democrats this year, and New Jersey hasn't elected a Republican senator in more than three decades. Yet Menendez has just an 11-point lead in the most favorable poll for him of late. By comparison, polls have found Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin often leading by double digits in their re-election bids, and those are in states President Donald Trump carried in 2016.
Voters aren't keen on Menendez, either. Only 34 percent of likely voters view Menendez favorably, versus 53 percent who see him unfavorably, according to the Quinnipiac survey.
"New Jersey likely voters may prefer Sen. Menendez over Republican challenger Bob Hugin, but they certainly make it clear they are not fond of Menendez," said Mary Snow, a polling analyst for the Quinnipiac University poll.
Menendez's popularity has suffered as allegations of corruption tail the senator. Hugin's campaign, which is largely financed by the wealthy former Celgene CEO himself, has saturated the state's airwaves with ads hammering Menendez's ethics record. Voters largely see Hugin favorably so far. Yet he has faced attacks over Celgene reaching a $280 million legal settlement over its cancer drug marketing.