Marginal candidates become winners when the voters are reminded of the War in Iraq.
The U.S. Senate race between Republican Tom Kean Jr. and Democrat Robert Menendez is virtually deadlocked, but if voters weren’t so concerned about the war in Iraq, Kean could hold a clear lead, according to a poll released Wednesday.
A portion of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll designed to test the impact of national issues on the race indicated that if the war were not a factor, Kean could be leading Menendez by 47-36 percent. As it stands, however, 43 percent of voters polled said they favor Kean to 39 percent for Menendez, a difference that matches the poll’s sampling error margin and makes the race a virtual tie.
Menendez, who now holds the Senate seat, voted as a House member against the 2002 resolution authorizing military action in Iraq. Kean, a state senator, has said he would have voted for the resolution, but added that significant mistakes have been made in the war.
“Based on voters’ generally favorable views of Tom Kean, he should be running away with this race,” said Dan Cassino, a political science professor at FDU and poll survey analyst. “The fact that he isn’t way ahead shows the importance of national issues in this election.”
The poll asked half of the respondents about President Bush and the war before asking them questions on the Senate race. The other half was asked about the Senate race first, then about Bush and the war.
Those asked about Bush and Iraq first gave Menendez a 41-39 percent edge. But respondents not asked to think about the war first gave favored [sic] Kean, 47-36 percent.
“At this point, it isn’t Menendez standing between Kean and the Senate _ it’s Bush,” Cassino said. “Worse, Kean’s attempts to distance himself from the president on Iraq don’t seem to be making a difference _ this month is just as bad as last month.”