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Menendez V. The GOP [AUDIO]

Senator Robert Menedez
Alex Wong, Getty Images

Those who know him know that incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is a prolific fundraiser and a close ally of President Barack Obama. The problem for New Jersey’s junior U.S. Senator is that not many people know him. He has never enjoyed particularly good name recognition. Menendez and Obama are both up for re-election this year and just as Republicans are hoping to unseat the President they’re also hoping to oust Menendez. A new poll out today shows that’s not likely, at least not if the election were to be held today.

Menendez defeats two possible Republican challengers in hypothetical match-ups. He beats State Senator Joe Kyrillos by 43%-31%, and conservative Anna Little by the exact same margin, 43%-31% according to the most recent statewide poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Public-Mind.

Poll director Peter Woolley says, “Kyrillos is a friend of the Governor (Chris Christie) and kind of a moderate Republican and Anna Little is a Tea Partier. Either one Bob Menendez seems to roll over pretty easily. A lot of people would like to think that he’s vulnerable, a lot of Republicans especially, but it’s not clear that the Republicans have a great shot at knocking him off.”

Woolley adds, “Without (GOP State Senator) Tom Kean, Jr., the Republicans right now have only the equivalent of generic candidates-not well enough known statewide to have a brand name. That’s the difficulty of having so few statewide elected offices. Challengers typically must struggle for name recognition.”

Menendez’s fortunes are largely tied to Obama’s according to Woolley.

New Jersey voters split on President Obama’s job evaluation: 46% approving to 45% disapproving. The one-point advantage is an improvement from two previous three-point deficits (44%-47%), but the President has a deficit of eight percentage points among men (40-48) compared to an advantage of nine points among women (51-42).

“Democrats are eager to note any improvements in the economy,” says Woolley. “Given the intense criticism by Republicans of their own candidates for the presidency, Democrats are feeling Obama’s chances of re-election have improved.”

Asked about the direction of the country, there is an uptick of six points in the right direction number, still terrible at 28%. There is a corresponding six-point drop in the “wrong track” number to 61%.

The poll of 800 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from Jan. 2 through Jan. 8, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.

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