Menendez’s Money Won’t Be Everything in 2012

Plenty of folks are already declaring Bob Menendez a “shoe-in” for re-election to the U.S. Senate next year.

That’s a curious thing, given the fact that only 47% of voters have heard of him.

Bullish Menendez backers are primarily relying on two facts to justify their confidence: (1) Menendez has $7 million in his campaign war chest, and (2) New Jersey Democrats have a 14-point registration advantage over Republicans. Compelling points, no doubt. Republicans always have to work hard to win here. But money and numbers can’t tell the whole story, Save Jerseyans.

My friend Senator Tom Kean (R-Union) ran and lost against Menendez in 2006 – one of the worst cycles for the Republican Party in modern history. Senator Kean came up short with 45% of the vote to Menendez’s 53%. That’s an 8-point victory; solid, yes, but still the closest margin garnered by ANY single GOP Senate challenger anywhere in America that year. And in that particular race, Kean consistently dealt with a massive campaign finance disadvantage. Menendez had almost $4 million more on hand than Kean six months out.

2012 looks to be a very different year from 2006.

Since Menendez went to the U.S. Senate, his constituents elected a rockstar Republican Governor who, in case you’ve already forgotten, was outspent by a multi-million dollar incumbent named “Corzine” by an approximately 3-to-1 margin! Now Christie is traveling across the country building a massive war chest for the state party; his NJGOP currently boasts a nearly 4-to-1 fundraising advantage over state Dems. Surely Christie will do well raising money for the nominee, particularly given the Guv’s not-so-secret disdain for the former Hudson party boss.

Christie will have help, too. His victory has catalyzed numerous important down-ballot Republican victories over the past two years at both the county and local levels. Places like Bergen County in the North and Gloucester County down south are suddenly fair game for conservative candidates after years of languishing under Democrat machine rule. A cadre of new, energetic surrogates (and fundraisers) will help a Republican challenger in 2012 in ways Kean couldn’t count on in 2006.

All of this spells real trouble for Bob Menendez. He knows it, too. Hence, why Democrats are going through the trouble of raising huge money to defend a liberal in an allegedly “blue state.” That fact unto itself is proof positive how money won’t be everything in Election 2012.


Matt Rooney
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MATT ROONEY is's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.


  1. When no one knows who you are, Menendez will be forced to spend twice as much on every dollar. This mean his GOP opponent's dollars go farther. Not as hopeless as they make it out to be!

  2. Many conservative grass roots leaders and their supporters have been listening to Tim Smith's message of Fight Waste and Smaller government. He has attracted much positive response as he has tirelessly spread that message to many different constituencies and demographics around the state. The GOP establishment would do well to consider backing Tim who has the added attraction of being a relative political outsider but who is a very successful businessman and jobs creator.

  3. Good point, Nuck: money (properly) spent against Menendez goes farther since relatively few voters have a well-defined opinion of him going into next year's race.

    But "properly" spent is the key.

  4. Tim Smith was a former Mayor and Councilman of Roxbury. NJ. Perhaps, more importantly, he has a great grasp of the economic problems now facing our country and the solutions that we must enact. He has built a very successful nationwide company and understands that ONLY the private sector can create sustainable jobs and that common sense must dictate the regulatory environment. For more info, you can reach me at

  5. Was that a yes, he's running?

    Not interested unless he's as conservative tough as Mike Doherty.

  6. I'm just praying that we not only unseat Menendez, but that we do so with someone who actually has a noticeably different platform. It would be unfortunate to see New Jersey pull a Scott Brown.

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