When Senator Bob Menendez left the courthouse in Newark in 2017 after the federal corruption case introduced towards him resulted in a mistrial, he issued a stark message to his perceived political opponents. “To those that have been digging my political grave so they may soar into my seat, I do know who you might be and I received’t overlook you,” the New Jersey lawmaker stated then. When requested to elaborate, Menendez responded, “it speaks for itself. They know who they’re and I do know who they’re.” The next 12 months, he received reelection to his third time period by a big margin.
Now, six years after avoiding a conviction as the results of a deadlocked jury, the Justice Division and the FBI are reportedly investigating Menendez once more—particularly whether or not he and his spouse, Nadine, didn’t report items of cash, jewellery, a luxurious automobile, and an condominium in Washington in change for political favors for a halal meat firm, which can be beneath investigation. “I’m certain it’ll find yourself in completely nothing,” Menendez stated in an announcement to NBC Information. And simply as a cloud of potential authorized bother hangs over him as soon as extra, Menendez is up for reelection in 2024. (Nadine’s lawyer declined to remark to The New York Instances.)
Headed into the 2024 election, the stakes for the Democratic Celebration couldn’t be greater. Particulars of the Menendez investigation are nonetheless popping out—together with a curious anecdote involving $250,000 price of bars of gold bullion belonging to Nadine reported by The New York Instances)—elevating questions whether or not the senator will likely be a legal responsibility for Democrats’ skill to carry on to their Senate majority. In spite of everything, Republicans aren’t any strangers to successful statewide in New Jersey, and simply two years in the past Democratic governor Phil Murphy confronted an unexpectedly shut reelection race.
But, again within the Backyard State, there’s a rising consensus that Menendez, nonetheless embattled, is a politician product of Teflon. “He’s been down this street earlier than…It’s simply not caught,” a political strategist who has labored for Republicans in New Jersey, advised Vainness Honest. “It could get a bit little bit of protection and like all people would transfer on and other people in New Jersey, different elected officers within the occasion, would type of hold their powder dry about it.”
A New Jersey politician echoed this sentiment: “The final time round nobody ever wavered,” they stated. Plus this time, there’s larger information within the politician-faces-major-legal-ramifications enviornment.
“I’d’ve in all probability at one level stated I assumed it was possibly particular to New Jersey, however I simply really feel politics generally is trending this fashion the place issues that have been scandals beforehand—and possibly New Jersey was forward of the curve on this for Menendez—that in any other case could be a problem identical to aren’t for voters anymore they usually’re prepared to look the opposite manner,” the political strategist advised VF. With a thrice-indicted former president main the Republican Celebration main, does the Menendez investigation even register? “It’s nearly like nothing shocks anymore.”
Nationally, an individual near Democrats’ pondering on Senate marketing campaign technique, stated Menendez isn’t a high concern for the time being—particularly as Democrats have to carry on to seats in pink states like Montana and West Virginia. (Menendez has not formally introduced that he’s working for reelection in 2024.) “New Jersey elects Democrats to federal workplace and it’s extremely unlikely to be amongst the states that can decide management of the Senate,” a nationwide Democratic strategist stated, noting that Democrats are monitoring the race.
Menendez additionally seems to be in luck. There are sufficient toss-up races in historically swing states that Republicans are “going to be laser centered” on races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada, along with Montana and West Virginia, per Republican strategist Alex Conant, who labored on Marco Rubio’s marketing campaign. And New Jersey is such an costly media market to play in, it’s extra possible that Republicans would prioritize investing elsewhere. “That stated, we stay in unpredictable political occasions, and stranger issues have occurred,” Conant stated. However New Jersey Republicans haven’t put ahead any top-tier candidates for Menendez’s seat, and are reportedly eyeing some down-ballot races that could be extra aggressive this cycle.
The Senate has lengthy been a white whale for Republicans within the state, who’ve managed to clinch the governor’s mansion however seen Democrats within the two Senate seats for many years. “If [Chris] Christie had run for senator, he would by no means have received,” one other strategist within the state stated.
In the meantime, Menendez is insulated from any significant main problem, insiders say. “New Jersey continues to be very dominated by a county type of boss construction…We’re the final vestiges of a machine-style choice course of,” the politician stated. “It’s subsequent to unimaginable to win a statewide main.” In 2018, Menendez beat his main opponent, Lisa McCormick, 62.3% to 37.7%. He went on to win handily over Republican Bob Hugin by 54% to 42%.
Plus, if issues actually do go south for Menendez, Murphy is within the governor’s mansion, not Christie—the governor in energy for a lot of the time Menendez was first beneath investigation—who would have appointed a Republican in Menendez’s stead had the senator stepped down. However attending to that time would necessitate rather more than simply an investigation: “It in all probability would take an indictment, a timeline with the indictment, after which some dialog with him earlier than you’d see any main occasion determine name for him to step down,” the New Jersey politician stated.