Mr. Menendez, a Democrat who recently escaped prosecution in a corruption trial, leads Mr. Hugin by a 6-point margin, 43-37, in a poll of New Jersey voters that Quinnipiac University released Wednesday.
Mr. Menendez held a 17-point lead, 49-32, in the same survey a month ago.
“As Sen. Robert Menendez sees his once dominant lead whittled down to single digits, New Jersey voters are sending a clear message,” said Mary Snow, polling analyst for the Quinnipiac Poll. “They are troubled by the ethics cloud hanging over him.”
The poll showed Mr. Menendez’s approval and favorable ratings are underwater, with 47 percent disapproving of his performance and 47 percent giving him a negative favorability rating.
Ethics has emerged as the top issue in the race, with a quarter of New Jersey voters saying it was their biggest concern.
Mr. Menendez has struggled to get out from under a cloud of corruption after he was saved from jail time by a hung jury that could not agree on a verdict after he was accused of accepting thousands of dollars in improper gifts and campaign contributions from a friend.
He was also admonished by the Senate ethics committee and it is clear that the legal saga has taken a toll on his image.
“The more New Jerseyans hear about disgraced Senator Bob Menendez’s corruption, the less they believe he should remain in the United States Senate,” said Bob Salera, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senate Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm. “Bob Menendez is a crook, and his desperate attempts to avoid talking about his bribery allegations are not working.”
Mr. Hugin has run television ads highlighting the sordid details that came out in the trial, including the fact that he “illegally accepted private plane travel, luxury Caribbean vacations, a trip to a fancy Paris hotel.”
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