Will the 'Brett Bounce' Unseat Bob Menendez in New Jersey?
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Senate Democrats overplayed their hand with how they handled the Kavanaugh hearings. As PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil covered earlier, recent polling has shown that Republicans, galvanized by the character assassination of Brett Kavanaugh, have, at least for now, closed the voter enthusiasm gap for the upcoming November midterm elections—called the "Brett Bounce" by Mike Allen of Axios. Midterm elections are historically very bad for the party in power. Simply put, anger motivates voters to vote. Democrats had been hoping that President Trump’s lackluster approval ratings would amplify their turnout above historical norms, and they’d experience a “blue wave” to match the Tea Party gains during the Obama years.
Several key Senate races have appeared to tighten or push the Republican into safe victory territory in states like Montana, Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota. But one state often overlooked as a potential GOP pickup is New Jersey. Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez appears to be vulnerable. So much so that Ryan Cooper over at The Week blames the Democratic Party for not getting rid of Menendez while they had the chance. “Democrats could have ditched this turkey for virtually any other person in the state and cruised to victory,” Cooper wrote. “Instead, top Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) protected and enabled him.”
According to Real Clear Politics, recent polls all have shown Menendez ahead, but with varying leads, but a Politico poll from earlier this week shows the race in a virtual tie. The problem comes down to Menendez, who is notoriously corrupt and only survived corruption charges last year because of a mistrial. Menendez’s favorability is in the red, and a large majority of voters say the corruption charges against him are either extremely important or significant in their vote.
The chance to replace Menendez as a candidate has passed. As Ryan Cooper noted, when Democrat Phil Murphy became governor, Democrats had the chance to replace Menendez with another Democrat, rather than hold on to him, because former Governor Chris Christie would have appointed a Republican to replace him. But, they didn’t. “On the contrary, the entire New Jersey Democratic machine — which is very nearly as corrupt as that of New York state, and that is saying a lot — circled the wagons around Menendez.”
In addition to the corruption charges he was put on trial for, there are also allegations—credible allegations—of underage prostitution. These charges weren’t allowed to be brought up during the trial, but federal prosecutors said they had corroborating evidence to support the allegations.
The prostitution claims, first reported by The Daily Caller in 2012, suggested Menendez and his co-defendant on bribery charges, eye doctor and businessman Salomon Melgen, traveled to the Dominican Republic to have sex with prostitutes.