Earlier in the year, Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) was dodging allegations that he was involved in a sex scandal with young Dominican prostitutes and that he was assisting a donor/friend with some business interests. Dr. Salomon Melgen, the friend and donor in question, had flown Menendez to the Dominican Republic on his private plane a few years ago; Menendez reimbursed Melgen for the flight after the story broke. The prostitution story ended up being discredited. But the story about the donor has lingered because reportedly a federal grand jury is investigating charges that Senator Menendez helped the business interests of Melgen. As recently as a few weeks ago, Senator Menendez told the press that he hasn’t been interviewed by the FBI or a grand jury.
Back in February, The New York Times editorial page was even suggesting that Senator Menendez temporarily relinquish his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until the allegations had been cleared.
A new Quinnipiac University poll released this week shows that New Jersey voters approve of Senator Menendez by a margin of 44 to 32 percent. The same poll shows that 39 percent indicate that Menendez is trustworthy, while 32 percent indicate that he is not. Back in March, the Senator’s approval margin was not as wide with 40 percent approved of the job he’s doing while 37 percent disapproved. In February, another poll showed that 28 percent of New Jersey voters said Menendez was trustworthy, while 44 percent said he was not. The polls show a definite improvement in approval and trustworthiness.
Lately, Menendez has been more visible in his role in the gang of eight, which introduced the immigration reform legislation, and he’s also been fighting for aid to rebuild damage New Jersey sustained in Superstorm Sandy.
Voters probably lost interest in the Menendez-Melgen story once the prostitution story was shot down, and the Senator’s visibility on key issues may ultimately be what people remember.