Thursday wasn't a good day to be an aspiring 2016 presidential candidate.

Newly public documents show prosecutors are accusing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) of being at the center of a "criminal scheme" to illegally coordinate with outside groups.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) admitted he "stepped right in it" with recent comments comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.

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And former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer was ridiculed for comments he made in an interview with National Journal about Rep. Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorEric Cantor: Moore ‘deserves to lose’ If we want to make immigration great again, let's make it bipartisan Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns MORE (R-Va.) setting off his “gaydar” and for comparing Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDHS chief takes heat over Trump furor NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration MORE’s (D-Calif.) relationship with the intelligence community to that of a prostitute.

The struggles the three face come after a rocky re-engagement with the press for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE this week.

It’s early still, and there’s a chance the potential candidates’ missteps and controversies will fade from voters’ minds before the first presidential primary debate.

But the stench of scandal is hard to shake. Opposition research files don’t forget. Long-gone gaffes never lose their attack-ad potency. 

If nothing else, their stories are a reminder that no candidate is a foregone conclusion. 



SENATE SHOWDOWN

GOP LEADS ON KEY ISSUES: A new poll shows Republicans leading on nearly every prominent issue in 12 Senate battleground states, a troubling sign for Democrats as they head into the final stretch of a tough election cycle. The survey, conducted by North Star Opinion Research for NPR, also shows President Obama’s approval rating lower in these 12 states than it is nationally, by about 4 points.

OK-SEN (OPEN): Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (R-Texas) cut an ad for the Senate Conservatives Fund to boost former Oklahoma Speaker T.W. Shannon (R). Cruz touts the Senate hopeful as a “conservative fighter” who has the “courage to look Washington insiders in the eye, and say, 'I don’t work for you, I work for the people of Oklahoma.' ” Shannon is locked in a tight battle with Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and several other candidates for the GOP nomination for Senate in the state.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater confirmed he’s investigating Shannon’s campaign “for potential criminal conduct” after an anonymous tipster suggested the campaign was illegally coordinating with an outside group supporting Shannon.

MS-SEN (COCHRAN): Former GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (R-Ariz.) will hit the campaign trail in support of Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTrump's chief agricultural negotiator will fight for American farmers Rep. Cummings hospitalized, wife suspends gubernatorial campaign Medical cannabis community must join together and resist any action taken against us MORE (R-Miss.) Sunday as he attempts to gain support in anticipation of a tough upcoming primary race against state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R). Cochran himself launched a new ad Wednesday in which he speaks to viewers about the right of the people “to make their own decisions without unnecessary interference from the government.”

Cochran also nabbed the endorsements of both Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and his predecessor, former Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor.

NH-SEN (SHAHEEN): In a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll that finds just 9 percent of New Hampshire voters undecided about their Senate race, Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSupreme Court to hear online sales tax case State official indicates US military role in Syria post-ISIS centered on Iran Overnight Health Care: Dems press HHS pick on drug prices | Alexander, Trump discuss ObamaCare fix | Senate Dems seek B to fight opioids | Maryland eyes ObamaCare mandate replacement MORE (D-N.H.) leads likely GOP challenger Scott Brown by 10 percentage points.

MT-SEN (WALSH): Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) touts his status as an Iraq War veteran in his newest ad. The ad features a member of the Montana National Guard who fought alongside Walsh and was paralyzed in the war. The veteran criticizes Walsh’s opponent, Steve Daines, for never serving and praises Walsh for going “to bat” for the National Guard soldiers.

AR-SEN (PRYOR): Senate Majority PAC, a pro-Democratic group, slammed Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ DHS chief takes heat over Trump furor Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising MORE (R-Ark.) for being the “only Arkansan in Congress, Democrat or Republican, to vote against disaster relief five times” in a new ad released Wednesday. The ad accuses Cotton, who faces a tough race against Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.), of being out of touch with Arkansas constituents. “Cotton votes with his Wall Street friends, but he turned his back on us,” the ad’s narrator says at its close.

MI-SEN (OPEN): Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) picked up the support of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s political action committee Thursday. The group hailed Peters, who will face Republican candidate Terri Lynn Land in the general election, for having a “proven track record of bipartisan leadership that is focused on solutions.”

VA-SEN (WARNER): The Republican Party of Virginia filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Dem lawmaker wants briefing on major chip vulnerabilities Week ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content MORE (D) over a photograph of the senator in a hearing that he used in a campaign ad, which the GOP says is a case of using taxpayer-funded resources for campaigning purposes. Warner’s campaign says because the photo was taken by The Associated Press and was available for public use it’s fair game.

CO-SEN (UDALL): Planned Parenthood added its voice to the attacks on Rep. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDurbin: Senators to release immigration bill Wednesday GOP senators eager for Romney to join them Gardner: Bipartisan DACA solution possible despite Trump's 's---hole countries' comment MORE’s (R-Colo.) shift away from his previous support for a measure that would effectively outlaw abortion and restrict access to birth control. After Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.) hit his GOP opponent on the issue with an ad on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood launched its own ad, highlighting the fact that even though Gardner has come out against a Colorado “Personhood” measure, he remains a co-sponsor of a federal bill.



BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

CA-31 (OPEN): Republican candidate Lesli Gooch, who finished third in the all-party primary, is requesting a recount in the race for retiring Rep. Gary Miller’s (R-Calif.) seat. Gooch lost to Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) by only 209 votes in the June 3 primary. If the recount were to push Gooch ahead of Aguilar, she would face off against Republican Paul Chabot in the fall, leaving the Democrats without a candidate in the race.

VA-7 (OPEN): Eric Cantor’s pollster, John McLaughlin, released a memo on a new survey that he says shows Democrats meddled in the primary that cost Cantor his job. Outside observers have been skeptical of McLaughlin’s reasoning. He’d conducted a poll two weeks before Cantor lost by 11 points that found him with a 34-point lead.

NY-21 (OPEN): A new poll shows former White House aide Elise Stefanik (R) leading businessman Matt Doheny (R) going into Tuesday’s GOP primary. The poll, conducted by Republican firm Harper Polling, found Stefanik leading Doheny 45 to 33 percent. Though Doheny is better known in the 21st District, the poll found that 41 percent of respondents had a negative view of him, compared with only 29 percent who viewed Stefanik negatively.



2016 WATCH

ROMNEY: A Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll found that the New Hampshire GOP 2016 presidential primary favorite is former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, earning 24 percent support from likely GOP primary voters. Trailing closest behind Romney was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with just 9 percent of the vote. Without Romney in the running, Christie and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year Despite amnesty, DACA bill favors American wage-earners MORE (R-Ky.) tie with 11 percent of the vote, while one-third of New Hampshire voters still remain undecided.

WALKER: Prosecutors are accusing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) of being at the center of a "criminal scheme" over campaign fundraising, according to newly unsealed court documents.

Walker and his aides are accused of running a "criminal scheme ... to utilize and direct 501(c)(4) organizations" to spend on behalf of Walker his allies in the documents. The prosecutors allege "a concerted effort to circumvent Wisconsin's campaign finance contribution prohibitions, limitations and disclosure requirements" to boost him in 2011 and 2012 during his gubernatorial recall election and help other state senators facing recall elections.

PERRY: Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said he "stepped right in it" when he recently compared homosexuality to alcoholism.

"When you get distracted, I'm thinking San Francisco. I got asked about issues and instead of saying 'you know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country to everybody,' and get back to talking about, whether you're gay or straight, you need to be having a job, and those are the focuses that I want to be involved with," he said at a luncheon hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "I readily admit, I stepped right in it."

Perry, a former 2012 presidential candidate who's eyeing another bid, stirred controversy when he compared homosexuality to alcoholism last week in San Francisco, saying someone might have a genetic predisposition to both but has “the ability to decide not to do that.”

SCHWEITZER: Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who says he's looking at a presidential run, sounded less than presidential in sizing up outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Schweitzer made off-the-cuff remarks on both lawmakers that hint at how his notoriously shoot-from-the-hip style could get him in trouble as a candidate.

"Don't hold this against me, but I'm going to blurt it out. How do I say this ... men in the South, they are a little effeminate," Schweitzer told National Journal on the night that Cantor lost. "They just have effeminate mannerisms. If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say — and I'm fine with gay people, that's all right — but my gaydar is 60-70 percent. But he's not, I think, so I don't know. Again, I couldn't care less. I'm accepting."

He also compared Feinstein to a prostitute pretending to be a nun.



QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I'm going to wait until the 2014 election is over, and then I'm going to see what I should do. I've never been in a less productive time in my life than I am right now, in the United States Senate."

— Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in MORE (D-W.Va.) on his political future