A few notes on newly-minted Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) maiden speech:
1) He never sounded that pretentious when he was in the House. I think he’s been taking lessons from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).
2) By announcing opposition to Alito, Menendez risks losing the Italian vote, which is no small part of Jersey politics. He would have been wise to vote yes, if only because his only serious potential primary challenger, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), has already decided not to challenge him. Menendez has nothing to lose by leaning right.
3) In the general election, Menendez begins as the underdog in retaining the Senate seat to which he was just appointed. His opponent, moderate state Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. (R), already leads him in the early polls.
4) Rather than benefiting from incumbency, the newly appointed Sen. Menendez will be burdened by the need to show up for votes in Washington when he needs to be on the campaign trail.