"I am ending my campaign so that I can focus on fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to me as your U.S. senator," Walsh said in a statement, according to The Billings Gazette. "You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will."
Walsh's decision follows a report in The New York Times in July which said that Walsh plagiarized significant parts of his master's thesis.
Since then Walsh had reportedly been trying to decide whether to continue running in the race or not. Even before the plagiarism story broke Walsh had an uphill battle to victory and faced a formidable challenge in Rep. Steve Daines, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.
"Uphill battle" is being friendly. Walsh was down by double digits before the scandal broke. Now that his career is over, Montana Democrats have only a few days to find a replacement, and by replacement I mean "Getting Brian Schweitzer to run for Senate."
Of course, Schweitzer has his own problems, which pretty much ended his dark horse 2016 presidential aspirations before they could aspirate.
Is there anything else that Montana Dems can do? There's rules for this all, apparently.
The first stop is at the Secretary of State's office. Linda McCulloch, who holds that position, will first authorize the state Democratic Party to replace Walsh.
At that point, the party's Rule 15 kicks in. That rule articulates the replacement process: a special nominating convention held by the party at which a new nominee is selected. The party would send out written notices of the time and date of the special convention -- or, if time is running short, simply call the party delegates who are allowed to vote for a replacement candidate.
Those delegates represent a broad swath of party leadership from across the state: voting members of the executive committee, the chair and vice chair of the central committees for each of Montana's 56 counties, the state committeeman and committeewoman from each county, presidents of charter organizations, and so on. In total, the party estimates, it's about 175 people -- which is actually about 0.2 percent of all of the voters in the Democratic primary election. That number is an estimate. Many counties might not have assigned committeewomen, for example, and not every county has a central committee.
The convention will likely be held in Helena, with the goal of making it "as open as possible," according to party spokesman Bryan Watt. The first priority will be voting delegates, of course, but Watt would also like to accommodate press and "as many people as possible," should such a convention become necessary.
Once the convention begins, the process gets a bit murkier. (Again: Uncharted territory.) Delegates will be able to nominate candidates from the floor, and those candidates will have a chance to speak. Then others could speak for or against the nominees. Finally, voting will begin. If none of the candidates got more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, the lowest vote-getter drops from the ballot, and voting continues until there's a nominee.
So is anyone left to run other than the already damaged Schweitzer?
The names that have been floating around:
John Bohlinger. Bohlinger was lieutenant governor of the state under Gov. Brian Schweitzer -- and was a Republican at the time. When Baucus left his seat, Bohlinger ran in the primary to replace him, losing to Walsh in June by over 40 percentage points.
Nancy Keenan. Keenan is the former superintendent of public instruction in the state and former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion access advocacy group. She spoke at both the 2008 and 2012 Democratic presidential conventions.
David Wanzenried. Wanzenreid currently sits in the Montana State Senate, representing the area around Missoula.
And I'm pretty sure all three of those folks are going to have an even tougher time. So yeah, unless a minor miracle happens, kiss this seat goodbye for the Dems due to several self-inflicted wounds.