Poll: Menendez rebounding

FILE In a file photo made Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, speaks in Sayreville, N.J. On Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, New Jersey's two major-party U.S. Senate candidates are set to meet in a debate. Menendez and Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos are scheduled to answer questions on radio station New Jersey 101.5 FM at 7 p.m. Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mel Evans,file)

WASHINGTON – A remarkable thing happened in the Senate press gallery Tuesday. New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez walked through, and no one batted an eye.

Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, was showing some family and friends around the senate, and walked right through a hive of reporters. No one dropped their coffee to ask him about Dominican prostitutes. No one looked up from Twitter to press him about helping a donor. No one asked if he was going to resign. In fact, no one asked him anything at all.

What a difference three months make. In early February, Menendez was on the wrong end of the “camera chasing fleeing politician” scene that never looks good.

Now? He’s back at the center of immigration reform, most of the media has been quiet about the scandal that enveloped him earlier this year, and an opinion poll out today shows that he is slowly but surely regaining his standing with New Jersey voters.

The Quinnipiac University poll found 44 percent of voters approve of the job Menendez is doing, compared to 32 percent who disapprove.

That’s up from 36 percent who approved in a Feb. 21 survey, just weeks after news broke about a raid on the offices of Menendez donor Salomon Melgen and as questions swirled about their relationship and shady allegations about trysts with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic (allegations since discredited).

Menendez’s approval rating is still down from the 56 percent high he reached in November, right after he won re-election, but it has ticked up four points in Quinnipaic surveys each of the past two months. His disapproval rating has dropped 9 points since February, down to about the level where it stood before the scandal.

Seventy percent of voters have heard of the controversy, but only 40 percent said it made them think less favorably of Menendez, compared to 47 percent who said it made no difference.

Asked if the controversy is worth investigating, 48 percent said yes – down from 60 percent in February – while 32 percent said it was politically motivated, up from 23 percent three months ago.

Menendez isn’t beloved – less than half of voters give him a thumbs up – but (provided no new damaging revelations emerge) he does seem to have weathered the worst of the political storm.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,112 registered voters from April 19 – 22. Its poll has a percent margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.