Torricelli Still On Top At Home

Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli leads Republican hopefuls in a new poll released amid a preliminary ethics inquiry into thousands of dollars in unreported gifts given to him by a supporter.

Torricelli was supported by more than 50 percent in matchups against all but one of the largely unknown Republicans in the Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. He had a 49-30 lead in the poll when matched against Republican state Sen. Diane Allen.

Torricelli's seat could be important to Democrats this election year as his party tries to hold onto its slim majority in the Senate. The loss of one seat could tilt control to the Republicans.

Torricelli had a 41-26 approval rating, with 33 percent undecided. Sixty percent said he had strong leadership skills, while 19 percent said he was a weak leader.

The poll was taken about two months after federal prosecutors closed a three-year investigation into the senator's campaign and personal finances without filing criminal charges.

The New York Times, citing anonymous sources close to the investigation, reported Wednesday that Senate investigators have filed a preliminary report with the Ethics Committee's ranking Democrat and Republican. They must decide whether the full panel should investigate Torricelli.

Torricelli has maintained that he accepted no "illegal gifts."

The Quinnipiac poll showed Torricelli holding a 53-28 percent lead over Republican Robert Ray, the independent counsel who investigated former President Clinton. Ray has not announced his candidacy.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed found Torricelli honest and trustworthy, while 30 percent did not and 27 percent were undecided.

Quinnipiac interviewed 1,005 registered voters by telephone from Feb. 26 to March 4. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.