Bob Hugin must feel bullish in the final stretch. Internal polling shared with the Washington Examiner shows the New Jersey Republican nipping at the heels of the ethically challenged incumbent, Sen. Bob Menendez.

“With just over three weeks until Election Day, our latest internal campaign survey continues to show Bob Hugin and Bob Menendez in a statistical dead heat,” reports a polling memo prepared by National Research Inc., “with Hugin at 40% and Menendez at 42%.”

That result comes after a telephone survey of 600 likely voters — a pool of 31 percent Republicans, 45 percent Democrats, and 24 percent unaffiliated voters. Those are encouraging numbers coming out of state that hasn’t elected a Republican senator since the early days of the Reagan administration. A two point deficit could stand between Republicans and another seat in the Senate.

Granted, internal polls tend to paint a rosier picture of reality than independent ones. But the survey at least tracks in the same neighborhood as earlier surveys. An early September Stockton University Poll had Hugin down by just two points and the latest Quinnipiac poll has Hugin down by seven points.

Hugin wouldn’t have a chance, of course, if Menendez had any self-control. Menendez was indicted, tried, and got off due to a hung jury after the Obama Department of Justice charged him with bribery, fraud, and making false statements to federal agents. The senator got off easy while his friend, wealthy Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, is currently serving a 17-year sentence.

Menendez had been using his official position to help Melgen get visas for his foreign-born girlfriends, and Melgen, in return, was giving Menendez flights on his private jet, rounds of golf at exclusive clubs, and nights in Paris.

All of it is ugly, and it's the reason why a first-time candidate like Hugin has been able to make this race close.