Sen. Bob Menendez's (D., N.J.) approval rating is underwater, and New Jersey voters are strongly in favor of the senator resigning should he be convicted at the conclusion of his corruption trial.
Eighty-four percent of likely voters said Menendez should resign if convicted, and 46 percent have an unfavorable view of the senator compared to just 20 percent favorable, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll. Menendez's trial began on Sept. 6, and he is facing charges of bribery and corruption for using his office to benefit his friend and co-defendant Salomon Melgen.
Menendez plans to run for reelection once the trial is over, reflecting confidence in his maintained innocence and the court proceedings. The senator's spokesman Michael Soliman said hypothetical questions about the senator being convicted "makes no sense."
"Once he is exonerated, and has the ability again to control his own message in his reelection campaign next year, we fully expect his numbers to rehabilitate," Soliman said.
Among Democrats, Menendez has retained a slightly positive favorability rating, with a ratio of 33 percent to 31 percent favorable/unfavorable among his fellow party members. Nevertheless, 77 percent of Democrats believe he should resign if convicted, and only 14 percent think he should not. Ten percent of likely voters overall would not want him to resign if convicted.
"Even though they're saying they like him, they still believe if he's convicted he should resign," Suffolk's David Paleologos said.
Menendez's Democratic colleagues—many of whom have received money from him—will not say whether he should resign if convicted. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) backed Menendez's "spirited defense," Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) showed his support at the courthouse, and none have even conditionally called for him to step down.
Michael Ahrens of the Republican National Committee highlighted the difference between Democratic politicians and the voters themselves.
"Not a single Senate Democrat will say what almost all of Senator Menendez's own constituents believe—that he should resign if he's convicted," Ahrens said.