Poll: New Jersey voters say Sen. Menendez should quit if convicted

Menendez accused of doing political favors

By SARAH JORGENSEN AND LAURA JARRETT , CNN
Headline Goes Here Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Robert Menendez

NEWARK, New Jersey (CNN) - A majority of likely voters in New Jersey believe Sen. Bob Menendez should resign if convicted of federal bribery charges, according to a new poll Suffolk University conducted for USA Today that was released Monday.

Menendez is accused of doing political favors for his wealthy friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for rides on private jets, swanky vacations and other perks. The two men deny all charges.

The poll found roughly 84% of likely voters in the state believe Menendez should step aside if convicted and only 20% have a "favorable" opinion of the New Jersey Democrat.

Notably, the poll further showed cross-party support for Menendez to resign if convicted, with 77% of Democrats, 90% of Republicans and 88% of independents saying he should step down.

The political impact of a conviction and any resignation or removal from office depends on when that would happen. GOP Gov. Chris Christie's term ends in January 2018 and he would almost certainly appoint a Republican to replace Menendez. That senator would give Republicans a slightly bigger edge in the Senate from the current 52-48.

But should Democratic nominee Phil Murphy win in November, Menendez could be replaced with a Democrat, maintaining the Senate status quo. A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Murphy with a comfortable lead over the Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.

The Suffolk/USA Today survey was conducted from September 19-23, polling 500 likely New Jersey voters with a margin of error of +/-4.4 percentage points.

Trial resumes

Monday kicked off the 10th day of the trial, as prosecutors delved into a contract dispute that Melgen had with the Dominican Republic for cargo screening at the island's ports.

The trial had been in recess due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday late last week.

A Commerce Department employee testified that he met with Melgen's then-attorney, Elio Muller, about the contract dispute in February 2012.

Scott Smith, a trade specialist at the department, told the jury that Muller was "very aggressive and threatening," and said the doctor had "politically influential friends," who Smith understood to refer to Menendez.

The defense team will cross-examine Smith Tuesday.

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