Robert Menendez did it again.
The New Jersey Democrat won a second six-year term Tuesday, trouncing Republican challenger state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, who was making his first bid for the U.S. Senate. He is one of three Latinos in the U.S. Senate, serving with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and newcomer Ted Cruz, who was elected Tuesday in Texas.
Kyrillos, 52, ran a low-key campaign "that didn't draw any distinctions between him and Bob Menendez. He didn't even tout his 24 years of service in the Legislature," said political scientist Patrick Murray of Monmouth University, near Kyrillos' hometown of Middletown.
Menendez, 58, who was born in New York and whose parents were from Cuba, entered the race with obvious advantages.
He had Obama anchoring the party's ticket in a state with 662,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. He's from heavily populated Hudson County, which has more registered Democrats than any other county.
And as an incumbent, he was known by far more voters -- 6 out of 10 registered voters polled by Monmouth University in late September reported not knowing enough about Kyrillos to have an opinion. He served in the House of Representative from 1993 to 2005.
Menendez outraised Kyrillos nearly 3-to-1, according to the latest federal election filings, and had $8.3 million on hand heading into October compared with Kyrillos' $1.6 million.
Voters didn't love Menendez, polls showed, but they didn't hate him, either.
The race lacked any defining issues and the challenger remained largely unknown, Murray said, a combination that tends to send voters "to the default position, which is to give the incumbent another term," Murray said.
Perhaps most telling, New Jersey residents haven't sent a Republican to the Senate since the `70s.
Kyrillos pulled out his most effective weapon down the stretch -- his pal of 20 years, Christie, who campaigned with Kyrillos at diners and rallies at least six times. The governor and the legislator go way back; Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, double-dated with Kyrillos when he took his wife on their first date.
President Barack Obama won New Jersey to claim its 14 electoral votes. Obama's re-election campaign devoted little time or money to the Democrat-leaning state.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie was the first governor to endorse GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and raised millions for him during the campaign. But Christie also heaped praise on Obama for his help with the state's recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
This is based on a story by The Associated Press.