CAMPAIGN OVERNIGHT: Presidential prospects stumble early and often

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 Cantor (R-Va.) setting off his “gaydar” and for comparing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’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 Clinton 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 Cruz (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 McCain (R-Ariz.) will hit the campaign trail in support of Sen. Thad Cochran (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 Shaheen (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 Cotton (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 Pryor (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 Warner (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 Gardner’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 Udall (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 Paul (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 Manchin (D-W.Va.) on his political future 

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