11:09 am Feb. 28, 2012
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is raising money off the messiness of the Republican presidential primary, and the popularity of his longtime nemesis, Governor Chris Christie.
In a fund-raising email to supporters, Menendez said Republican donors are recalibrating their hopes for 2012, turning their attention away from the presidential race and focusing on retaking the Senate.
"DC Republicans have looked at the disarray of their presidential primary and decided that for now, taking the Senate is their No. 1 priority," he wrote. "They see the headlines Chris Christie makes here in New Jersey and have declared my seat a top target. That means they are lining up millionaire donors for this race."
New Jersey is not generally considered one of the top opportunities for Republican gains in 2012. The Cook Political Report rates the race as "Solidly Democratic," and Republicans have mostly focused on Midwestern states like Ohio, Missouri, Montana and Nebraska, where they don't face the same registration disadvantage that they do in New Jersey.
But given the popularity of Christie, who was heavily recruited by top donors to run for president, Menendez feels he can at least make a case that the high-dollar contributors are looking in New Jersey's direction.
In 2006, when Christie was serving as the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and Menendez was running for his first full term, Christie launched a last-minute investigation that included subpoenaing Menendez two months before Election Day. Menendez went on to win, and no charges were ever filed in the case.