According to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll, Republican challenger Bob Hugin has narrowed the gap with Democratic incumbent Senator Bob Menendez. Politico.com reports that Menendez’s lead has shrunk to 51-46 percent, within the poll’s 5.1 margin of error. Hugin leads among independent voters, 50-43 percent and only 28 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of Menendez while 55 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. Menendez still holds a large lead with women, non-whites, and voters under 50.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Hugin has spent over $10 million of his own money on the attack ads. Hugin has been in the news lately because of television ads he has been running dredging up the (unproven) allegations that Menendez had sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Those allegations came from an anonymous tipster, and, according to the New York Times, the prostitutes who claimed to have had sex with Menendez and eye doctor Salomon Melgen later recanted. The charges were not included in the federal indictment of the two men. Hugin has also focused on Menendez’s ethical lapses that resulted in Menendez being “severely admonished" by the Senate due to the gifts he received from Melgen and the favors Menendez did for him. Menendez was indicted on the charges but his trial ended in a deadlocked jury and prosecutors decided not to retry him. Melgen, however, was found guilty of Medicare fraud and sentenced to 17 years. Intervening in the Medicare case on behalf of Melgen was what got Menendez indicted in the first place.

New Jersey has not elected a Republican senator since 1972.

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