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New Jerseyans to Menendez: Get out

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Most New Jerseyans think indicted Sen. Bob Menendez is probably guilty and think he should resign, according to a poll released Thursday.

Seventy-five percent of residents think Menendez is probably guilty, while just 5 percent think he’s probably not guilty, according to the Monmouth University poll of 801 New Jersey adults. Menendez’s approval rating among registered voters stands at just 16 percent — his lowest ever recorded in a Monmouth poll. Sixty-three percent said he should resign.

Menendez is charged with 16 federal counts — including extortion, obstruction and acting as an unregistered foreign agent — involving an alleged yearslong scheme to trade his influence as then-chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for lavish gifts that included nearly half a million dollars in cash, about a dozen gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz for his wife Nadine, who is one of his co-defendants. Another Menendez co-defendant, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty last week and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The poll was conducted just before a grand jury returned a third superseding indictment against the senator that hit him with 12 new criminal counts but included few new allegations. Eighty-nine percent of residents have heard at least a little about the allegations, according to the poll.

Menendez has not announced whether he intends to seek reelection, but New Jersey Globe reported he has not made any effort to collect petitions to run in the Democratic primary. The deadline to turn them in is March 25. But Menendez, who has lost party support, has not answered questions about whether he would seek reelection as an independent.

Now vs. the last indictment: Menendez was previously indicted for corruption in 2015 but beat the charges in a mistrial. A Monmouth poll conducted shortly after that indictment, in May 2015, measured his approval rating at 42 percent and disapproval at 38 percent. Back then, only 28 percent said he should resign and 47 percent said he was probably guilty.

“Perhaps the stash of gold bars is a little too much to stomach. Or maybe it’s simply one corruption trial too many. In any event, New Jerseyans say they have had enough and it’s time for Menendez to go,” said pollster Patrick Murray.

Now, Menendez’s support has collapsed across the political spectrum, with 65 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Republicans disapproving of his job performance.

Other approval ratings: Even in blue New Jersey, 53 percent of voters disapprove of President Joe Biden’s job performance, while 44 percent approve. The approval rating is a three-point improvement from an August Monmouth poll, but within the margin of error.

Fifty-three percent approve of Sen. Cory Booker’s job performance — a six-point improvement from August — and 40 percent disapprove.

Methodology: The poll of 801 residents, including 757 registered voters, was conducted from Feb. 29 to March 4 via landline, cell phone and online surveys.The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points for all residents and 4.3 percentage points for registered voters.