It’s rare that an incumbent senator declining to run is bad news for the other party but there’s no way to spin this as happy for the GOP, right? Walsh was down by double digits in a solidly red state when the NYT dropped that plagiarism bomb on him. He was dead in the water. Whoever ends up replacing him as nominee will be stronger — maybe much stronger.

The GOP may need to work for this one now. A little.

“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 to supporters. “You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will.”

The Montana Democratic Party now will choose a replacement for Walsh to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot, along with Republican Rep. Steve Daines and Libertarian Roger Roots.

The party has to select a new Senate candidate at a nominating convention by Aug. 20.

Monday is the deadline to withdraw, which makes me wonder who leaked that oppo research to the Times about Walsh’s plagiarism last month. I think people assumed at the time it was his Republican opponent, Steve Daines, who did it, but the timing made no sense. Daines surely would have waited until the deadline passed and it was too late for Walsh to drop out. More likely it was some Democrat who leaked it knowing that Walsh was a sure loser in November and realizing that they had to act quickly so Walsh could be forced out before the deadline and replaced with someone more formidable.

Speaking of which, the early favorite:

Two Montana Democrats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the party was eyeing Nancy Keenan, a former head of Naral Pro-Choice America, to become the party’s nominee this fall against the Republican nominee, Representative Steve Daines. Ms. Keenan has had conversations about the prospect with state Democrats, but she did not return messages seeking comment…

One Democrat in the state noted that Ms. Keenan had a “national profile and national network” that would help her raise money quickly to give the party at least a chance to make the race competitive. Though Montana is a conservative-leaning state, it leans more libertarian on social issues like abortion.

With Mr. Walsh as the candidate, independent analysts had rated the seat a likely pickup for the Republicans. While Ms. Keenan, if nominated, may not ultimately be able to retain the seat first won by Mr. Baucus in 1978, strategists believe that she would at least draw financial support and not be a drag on the rest of the party’s ticket. With Mr. Daines vacating his House post to run for the Senate, Democrats believe they have a chance to pick up the state’s at-large House seat. A number of contested state legislative contests are also on the ballot.

I know, I know — a NARAL chief as nominee in a red, rural state? It made no sense to me either but apparently Montana’s not quite as anti-abortion as some of its red-state cousins. Besides, as the Times describes it, it sounds like Democrats are focused less on Keenan winning than on her running a solid enough race for them to steal Daines’s vacant House seat down ballot. She’s low-risk and potentially high-reward.

But what about Brian Schweitzer? Former governor, high name recognition, flirted with running against Daines before — he’s a natural replacement, especially since the Dems wouldn’t need to waste time introducing him to voters. Ed had the same instinct when he wrote about Walsh recently although he thought Schweitzer’s comments about having a “gaydar” and wondering if Eric Cantor was guy might have hurt him too much. Eh, I don’t know. Isn’t shooting his mouth off part of Schweitzer’s routine shtick, something Montanans are used to? Democrats can forgive anything if it means having a shot at a seat they had written off on a night when they’re at risk of being swamped. Schweitzer might be more inclined to run now too. Winning this seat would be a fast track to redemption with Democrats nationally, and if he’s semi-serious about primarying Hillary, showing he can beat the GOP in a red state when Republicans are poised to win big elsewhere is a good way to build support. Guess we’ll see.

I have no video to accompany this post so instead here’s Pelosi’s top deputy, House minority whip Steny Hoyer, reassuring an audience of African leaders that he doesn’t whip people. Wait, what?

Update: Oh well.