Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

John Walsh Drops Senate Bid in Montana

Walsh was sworn in on Feb. 11. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Montana Sen. John Walsh said Thursday he won’t be coming back to the Senate next year, confirming what was already the most likely conclusion to his campaign.

Walsh announced he is ending his bid to retain the seat he was appointed to in February, a decision reached less than three months before the election and days before a critical state deadline to remove his name from the ballot.

Republicans were already highly likely to win this seat in November. Now Democrats hope Walsh’s exit is at least beneficial to their efforts in other races in the state.

“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, as first reported by the Billings Gazette. “You deserve someone who will always fight for Montana, and I will.”

Walsh was never destined for a long career on Capitol Hill, even after replacing Max Baucus, who was already serving his last term but resigned early to become the ambassador to China.

Before Baucus’ resignation, the national party had unsuccessfully recruited others to run for the open seat before settling on Walsh, then the lieutenant governor and a military veteran with little political experience. His decision to walk away from the race highlights just how unlikely victory would have been against Republican Rep. Steve Daines in the GOP-leaning state — particularly after a recent, scathing New York Times report on Walsh’s apparent plagiarism at the Army War College in 2007.

Pressure mounted over the weekend, as the Billings Gazette published a blistering editorial calling on Walsh to end his campaign. The senator canceled events this week and remained at his home Tuesday for what his campaign told The Associated Press was “a personal day.”

Walsh was sworn in on Feb. 11, six months to the day before the state’s Aug. 11 deadline for candidates to opt off of the general-election ballot. Montana Democrats will now likely hold a nominating convention to replace Walsh before a second mid-August deadline.

One name mentioned by Montana Democratic insiders to fill Walsh’s spot was Nancy Keenan, the former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Keenan, a former state superintendent of public instruction who lost a 2000 open-seat House race to Republican Denny Rehberg, is reportedly back in the state assisting Democrats in the midterms.

The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call changed its rating Thursday from Lean Republican to Republican Favored.

With Republicans already heavily favored to win the seat, choosing a new nominee at the very least takes a toxic brand off the top of the ballot in a state Democrats hope to win other races — namely the House seat Daines is vacating.

In that race, Republican state Sen. Ryan Zinke faces Democratic former congressional aide John Lewis and a Libertarian candidate. It’s rated Favored Republican.


Related stories:

Ratings Change: Montana Senate

Top 10 Most Vulnerable Senators

Internet Confused About John Walsh, the College Years

Walsh on Plagiarism: ‘I Made a Mistake’ But Not Due to PTSD

Governor to Reid: ‘None of Your Damn Business’ Whom I Appoint to Senate

Newest Senator Will Test (Historically Limited) Potency of Appointed Incumbency

Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh Appointed to Replace Baucus 

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

Roll Call Casualty List

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  • Dantes

    Well, this really blew up in Harry Reid’s face.

  • Bobo

    Imagine that, a Democrat plagiarising at the War College. Character counts with the Democrats, doesn’t it?

  • terjeanderson

    Walsh dropped out.

    Rand Paul, caught repeatedly plagiarizing, is still a Republican star. (And Paul never went anywhere near the War College in the first place).

    I guess that shows how much character counts with Republicans, eh?

  • AwakenNow

    For 7 ½ YEARS (Jan. 2007 – the last 2 years of the Bush administration – NOW) Obstructionist Harry Reid has blocked ALL Republican Bills, almost all Republican Amendments, and now has 360 Bi-Partisan passed House Bills sitting on his desk without a Senate vote. We must remove Harry Reid as SENATE Majority Leader — Vote OUT all Democrats in Nov. 2014.

  • Nobama

    That’s the best thing about this whole fiasco—anything that will F over the senile old bastard is just Nirvana.
    Oh, and by the way, he didn’t have any contact with the MT Governor before this cynical ploy was put together (LOL!).

  • Packard Day

    Brent Bozell was right about the MSM covering the Senator John Walsh plagiarism story.

    From the initial reading of this Rollcall article, It is not altogether clear what political party John Walsh actually belongs to. We know that a sitting US Senator is being forced to withdraw from his campaign due to plagiarism charges, yet the party he belongs to and the one he caucuses with is not all that important to the writer.

    Any guesses how the Walsh story would have been portrayed by Rollcall and others in the MSM had he only had the good sense to be one of those dastardly Republicans?

  • brickman

    I guess you feel more at ease with people getting 5 deferments so that they never have to attend a war college.

  • Bobo

    I don’t care for draft dodging, military dodging ‘leaders’. I don’t feel ‘at ease’ with most politicos, but recognize the Democratic pols as being worse than your average loser.

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