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Democratic Sen. John Walsh, who was just appointed to the post earlier this year, has decided not to run for a full term this fall in the wake of a devastating plagiarism scandal unearthed by the New York Times. Walsh was already the decided underdog to Rep. Steve Daines, given Montana's traditionally red lean, but revelations that he plagiarized large portions of his 14-page master's thesis at Army War College made a difficult race nearly impossible.
Walsh will serve out the rest of his term, but Democrats must pick a new nominee at a party convention by Monday. A dream candidate would be ex-Gov. Brian Schweitzer, but he previously declined to run for this seat after Sen. Max Baucus announced his retirement. (Baucus later resigned to accept an ambassadorship to China, opening the way for Gov. Steve Bullock to tap Walsh, who was then his lieutenant governor, as a replacement.) Other possibilities include former NARAL president Nancy Keenan, EMILY's List president Stephanie Schriock, and former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, who took 23 percent in the Democratic primary against Walsh earlier this year.
Whoever gets tapped won't have Walsh's baggage, but he or she will have precious little time—just three months—to put together a full-blown statewide campaign. And that person will be facing the same demographic challenges Walsh was. Montana Democrats have done an excellent job sailing against the prevailing winds for many years now, electing guys like Bullock and Sen. Jon Tester even as Republican presidential candidates regularly carry the state. But it looks like their luck may have finally run out, and John Walsh's quick fall hasn't helped matters.