Assume that all politicians are crooks and liars, and you will never be disappointed. Don’t think for a moment, though, that the electorate has shrugged off ethics altogether. Just look at New Jersey.

Sen. Bob Menendez should be winning re-election easily. Instead, the Democrat is holding on for dear life in a state that Hillary Clinton swept by 14 points. His Republican challenger, Bob Hugin, told me back in September he was going to make the race about one thing: the incumbent’s ugly ethics.

It's working. The Cook Political Report moved the New Jersey race from “leans Democrat” to a “toss up.”

Granted, this is the same New Jersey that hasn’t elected a Republican since 1982. As Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics warns, the state could pull the football away from Hugin and an overeager GOP at the last moment. But they have reason to be optimistic.

Hugin is a retired Marine turned pharmaceutical executive with liberal Republican talking points, a big-old bucket of his own money to spend on television ads, and a decently inspiring story. Something Hugin doesn’t have? A record on file at the FBI.

Menendez does have an FBI file from that one time he traded visas to a political donor for perks like private flights and fancy hotel rooms. The senator also has a credible reputation as a creep. Former President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice was almost certain Menendez traveled to the Dominican Republic to sleep with underage prostitutes. Thanks to a hung grand jury though, the indicted Democrat never saw the inside of a prison.

It is an ugly contrast and it is one that Hugin hopes can get him elected. He signed an ethics pledge to behave better if sent to Washington. It is an easy promise to make considering the awful mess Menendez has made and it could get him elected.