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New Jersey Senate Race Is Neck And Neck

The New Jersey Senate race between Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez and Republican challenger Thomas Kean Jr., which could decide which party controls the Senate, is neck and neck as it heads for the homestretch, a CBS News/New York Times poll finds.

Despite New Jersey voters' negative opinions about President Bush and the war in Iraq, the race remains a virtual dead heat — 40 percent for Menendez, 39 percent for Kean, with 16 percent undecided — because of negative assessments of Menendez and concerns about corruption and taxes.

The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus three percentage points.

Corruption charges made against Menendez appear to be sticking. Asked to name the first thing that comes to mind when they hear Menendez's name, the top answer, mentioned by 21 percent of likely voters, was "corruption" or "crooked." The first thing that comes to mind when Kean's name is mentioned is his famous father, former Gov. Thomas Kean, named by 34 percent.

Read more about the tight race.
Read the entire poll.
Menendez's party affiliation is the source of most of his support. Fifty-five percent of likely voters say they're backing him because he's a Democrat, while 39 percent say it's his stand on the issues; just 2 percent cite his personal qualities. Among Kean supporters, 48 percent say it's his stand on the issues, 31 percent his party affiliation and 14 percent his personal qualities.

Voters don't feel particularly strongly about either candidate. More than 40 percent of both men's backers say their support comes "with reservations."

Which party will control the Senate is an important factor in this race. Thirty-four percent of voters say their vote is specifically to help put Democrats in charge of the Senate, while 17 percent see it as a vote to keep the GOP in control.

Among those who say their vote is not about Senate control, Kean leads Menendez by 45 percent to 23 percent.

While President Bush is viewed negatively by New Jersey voters — just 33 percent approve of the job he's doing, which is in line with his national rating — a majority of New Jersey voters say their vote will not be about the president.

But among those who say the president is a factor, more then twice as many say their Senate vote will be a vote against the president as say it will be a vote for him.

New Jersey voters are split on whether national or local issues will have the greater impact on their vote. Among those who cite the war in Iraq as the most influential national issue, Menendez has a big edge. But many New Jersey residents say taxes will be the most important statewide issue in their vote, and Kean is the choice among those voters.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

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