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Menendez Watch

According to a poll by Quinnipiac University, Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D., N.J.) approval rating has dropped to a five-year low. As the Associated Press noted:

A new poll shows a donor controversy is taking a toll on U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's popularity.

The Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday shows the Democrat's job approval rating at a five-year low of 36 percent, compared with 41 percent who disapprove of his performance.

It also shows 44 percent think Menendez isn't honest and trustworthy, compared with 28 percent who believe he has those qualities.

Menendez soundly won his second senate term last November, winning 58 percent of votes.

As the Free Beacon reported, New Jersey constituents seem to be taking notice. This latest poll indicates the Menendez saga is not likely to be an inconsequential occurrence.

The senator seems determined to weather the storm in spite of this. As ethics questions continue to mount and some call on him to step down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez has "dug in, determined to outlast his detractors."

The New York Times reports: 

Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, has been described as both shaken and angry these days as he confronts questions about his conduct that will not go away and that threaten to strip him of the power he has worked for decades to acquire. …

Yet Mr. Menendez, a brawler who once wore a bulletproof vest to testify in a federal corruption case against a powerful political mentor, has dug in, determined to outlast his detractors.

To fend off critics and rivals, he has hired an aggressive crisis team that includes a veteran of his previous battles, Matthew A. Miller. He has reached out to top Democrats — including Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader — to reassure them that the worst is over.

Menendez has previously been investigated for ethics violations, including a possible pay-to-play situation during his first Senate bid.

As Election Day approached, Chris Christie, then the United States attorney in Newark, opened an inquiry into a nonprofit community agency that paid Mr. Menendez more than $300,000 in rent at the same time that he was helping the group obtain federal grants. …

In the end, Mr. Menendez won the race and the investigation was eventually closed with no charges filed. A longtime friend said the attacks affected Mr. Menendez deeply.

The case returned to public attention when Menendez opposed the 2012 nomination of would-be federal judge, Patty Shwartz. Shwartz’s longtime companion was the head of the unit that investigated a 2006 ethics inquiry. Menendez’s initial resistance was "the only time a Democrat has tried to block one of [Obama’s] judicial nominees," and reports characterized it as "an unusual case of intraparty defiance."

Aides claimed the hold up was because "the senator had initially been unimpressed after an interview" with Shwartz.

According to the New York Times it is instances like these, in which Menendez was "forced to carry on his duties through tumultuous and even perilous moments," that have prepared the senator, "in some respects," to handle the accusations he faces today.

As the senator faces a growing number of questions about his relationship to long-time controversial Democratic donor and friend Dr. Salomon Melgen, Menendez and his allies "are moving aggressively to contain any fallout."

Menendez and his supporters have deemed the allegations to be apart of "a smear campaign," and he has hired legal representation. The senator is now being represented by Stephen M. Ryan, "a Washington lawyer whose specialties include dealing with the legal, political and news media repercussions of government investigations."