Republican New Jersey Senate candidate Bob Hugin repeatedly said in an appearance on Fox News Tuesday that Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) was an embarrassment to his state.
"It's so embarrassing," Hugin told primetime host Laura Ingraham. "We've done over 400 campaign stops already, meeting with New Jerseyans of every location in our state. They want change. They're embarrassed by this guy. He violated federal law, abused the power of his office, disgraced the Senate, embarrasses all of New Jersey."
A Stockton University poll released Monday showed Menendez with only a two-point lead in their race, a statistical dead heat due to being within the margin of error. Another poll out Wednesday gave him a six-point lead, 43-to-37 percent, showing he still had undecided voters, particularly Democrats, he needed to win over.
Menendez sat at a 54 percent unfavorable rating in the Stockton poll, following his public corruption trial that resulted in no conviction but tarnished his image. He was also formally rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for his relationship with friend and donor Salomon Melgen, failing to disclose lavish gifts and doing Melgen favors through his political office.
Conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham said the poll showing a close race was not shocking because of Menendez's low favorability, adding it was "funny" to hear Menendez weigh in critically on embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Hugin said New Jersey could do "so much better" than Menendez, saying he's getting more positive feedback each day. Ingraham, an ally of the White House, said Hugin's race was winnable and recommended the Senate Leadership Fund pour money into Hugin's efforts.
Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive and Marine Corps veteran, was viewed favorably by 34 percent of voters and received an unfavorable rating of only 21 percent in the Stockton poll. However, 43 percent were not familiar with him, a significant barrier as he seeks to unseat a well-known incumbent.
Losing the New Jersey seat to the Republicans would be a devastating blow to Democratic hopes of retaking the Senate. Hillary Clinton easily won the blue state in 2016, and Democrats cannot afford any incumbents losing in 2018.