Bhalla v. Menendez: Beauty in the Eye of the Pollster

There’s probably nothing better for political junkies than a good fight among Hudson County Democrats and we have one developing.

The June primary in CD-8, which covers most of Hudson plus Elizabeth and a part of Newark, pits incumbent Rep. Robert Menendez Jr. against Ravi Bhalla, the mayor of Hoboken.

Nothing happens in a vacuum and you have to wonder if there would even be a challenge to the congressman if not for the indictment of his father.

A poll circulating by the Bhalla campaign proclaims:

“While voters may confuse Bob and Rob Menendez, the Menendez name remains a significant liability.”

That’s not earthshattering news.

But a more pertinent question is, how will this impact the younger Menendez’ reelection bid?

We know all about how a son is not responsible for the “sins of the father,” but politics is not always that philosophical.

And it’s fair to point out the obvious connection. Without U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, it’s highly unlikely the younger Menendez would be serving in Congress today.

Recall that after Rep. Albio Sires said he wasn’t running for reelection in 2022 – he has since been elected mayor of West New York – party leaders quickly endorsed Menendez Jr. for the open seat.

You have to figure all of this is fodder for the Bhalla campaign – a congressman “given his seat” because of the influence of his “corrupt” old man.

But this still is an uphill battle for the mayor.

Much of the Democratic establishment has abandoned the senator, but not so much his son.

Rep. Menendez has been endorsed by an array of party luminaries, among them the Hudson County Board of Commissioners and state Sen. Brian Stack, who, to put it mildly, knows how to get the vote out in Union City, where he is also the mayor.

In the midst of all that, the Bhalla campaign is highlighting the aforementioned poll.

“A recent survey of 403 likely primary voters in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District shows Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla well positioned to beat incumbent Congressman Rob Menendez. The trial heat is statistically tied with Bhalla receiving 41 percent to Menendez’s 44 percent of the vote with 15 percent undecided.”

If a challenger is tied with the incumbent, that is good news for the challenger.

Team Bhalla also claims that support for Menendez has just about reached its ceiling, while Bhalla “has tremendous upside.”

It gets to this conclusion by noting that 41 percent of respondents view the congressman as unfavorable. In contrast, only 8 percent view Bhalla unfavorably.

This can be a problem for Menendez. If his unfavorables are at 41 percent, it’s probably not because of anything he did wrong, but because of his father’s troubles. And if it has to do with his father, there ain’t much his son can do about it.

But wait a minute.

The Menendez campaign did a poll earlier this month and found that the congressman had a whopping, 46 to 24 percent lead over Bhalla.

What gives?

The Bhalla campaign says the Menendez poll is deficient, because it was conducted among registered Democratic voters – “not among voters with a history of voting in the Democratic primary.”

It said its poll sampled “likely primary voters,” meaning that the results are a better indicator of what will happen in June.
Not so, says the Menendez campaign. Here’s their response to the rosy assessment of things from Bhalla.

“Our Menendez for Congress poll was conducted among registered Democrats in the Eighth Congressional District who were then screened for their likelihood to vote in the primary and weighted to be representative of a likely Democratic primary electorate. It is completely inaccurate to deride our poll as not being representative of likely primary voters. In fact, our research and modeling suggests that the more likely a voter is to participate in the primary, the more likely they are to support Congressman Menendez.

“Furthermore, given the Eighth is a heavily Hispanic district, our campaign went out of its way to invest in a culturally appropriate, bilingual, language of choice polling methodology, a design that ensured primary voters who predominantly speak Spanish were able to participate in the survey.

“We are confident in the results of (our) poll that show Congressman Rob Menendez as the clear front runner in this race.”

You gotta love it when pollsters are fighting.

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5 responses to “Bhalla v. Menendez: Beauty in the Eye of the Pollster”

  1. The part for me is that menendez says he didnt know about his father but anyone you know parents were arrested who is the person they call first their KIDS and Menendez held any office before and he automatically became a congressman

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