BEVERLY – Bob Hugin deadpanned when asked Thursday afternoon about the recent Quinnipiac poll.
“You mean there was a poll yesterday?” he said.
Hugin and his campaign staff know better. The poll put the Republican Senate candidate within six points of Bob Menendez. The news has reverberated in Republican circles and has GOP loyalists dreaming about an upset win.
And a big upset it would be. Those who track races long have seen New Jersey as safe for Menendez.
Hugin, who journeyed to this small Burlington County town on the banks of the Delaware River to talk about federal aid, acknowledged the obvious – Menendez is just starting his TV ad campaign.
And as has been mentioned, the senator’s recent ad is a beauty – attacking Hugin, a one-time pharma executive, for financing his campaign on the backs of cancer patients.
“They must be a little scared and desperate,” he said of the Menendez campaign. “They’re doing it before Labor Day.”
Well, campaigns no longer start after Labor Day, as Hugin well knows.
He’s had ads running all summer calling Menendez “corrupt,” and talking about how a Senate Ethics panel found him “guilty” for among other things, accepting lavish gifts from a friend who needed government assistance.
In truth, Menendez was not found guilty of those transgressions in court. A jury was unable to reach a verdict and the government opted not to try him again.
Of course, if some viewers fail to distinguish between the two – many people after all are not political junkies – so much the better for Hugin.
As for the negative ads Menendez is running and the ones bound to come, Hugin said he wasn’t concerned.
“I am proud of what I’ve done in my life,” he said, suggesting that a full picture of his career will garner more cheers than jeers.
The official purpose of Thursday’s event was to criticize how the federal government doles out aid under the Urban Areas Security Initiative. Surrounded by county officials and local fire and rescue volunteers, Hugin noted that the nearby city of Philadelphia calculates its eligibility for aid by using the population of Burlington and two other New Jersey counties, Camden and Gloucester. But when aid is distributed, it seldom comes to south Jersey.
Instead, “Federal funds are sent across the Delaware,” said Kate Gibbs, the Burlington County Freeholder Director.
Federal aid coming back to the state is not a new issue by any means. Politicians from both parties have talked about it for years.
In truth, a large part of the “problem,” is that New Jersey residents make a lot of money, relatively speaking, That’s why they pay more on average in federal income taxes than residents in most other states.
On the other side of the coin, the state’s relative wealth means that New Jersey doesn’t get as much aid as poorer states. If New Jersey had more people getting food stamps, we’d be getting more federal aid, but that wouldn’t be good, would it?
Still, on the surface, this is a good political issue and you can expect candidates from both parties to keep using it. But don’t expect to see a change anytime soon.
As Hugin spoke to reporters after the event, he was asked if he expected, or would like, Donald Trump to campaign for him. This would not be a heavy lift for a president who often spends weekends in Bedminster.
“This is a race between Bob Menendez and Bob Hugin,” he said.
That kind of sounds like a “no.”