BUNNING THREATENS TO BOLT…. Sen. Jim Bunning (R) of Kentucky hasn’t been getting along with his party lately. Convinced that his erratic behavior, bizarre comments, poor fundraising, and weak poll numbers all but guarantee his defeat next year, the Republican Party has been pushing Bunning to retire, and quietly reaching out to other potential GOP candidates.

Bunning has responded with varying degrees of outrage. He’s no longer talking to most of his Republican colleagues. He announced this week that he no longer trusts NSRC Chairman John Cornyn. On Tuesday, Bunning talked openly about suing the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

This, however, would represent a whole new level of spite.

Already in conflict with his party’s leaders, Sen. Jim Bunning has reportedly said privately that if he is hindered in raising money for his re-election campaign he is ready with a response that would be politically devastating for Senate Republicans: his resignation.

The Kentucky Republican suggested that possible scenario at a campaign fundraiser for him on Capitol Hill earlier this week, according to three sources who asked not to be identified because of the politically sensitive nature of Bunning’s remarks.

The implication, they said, was that Bunning would allow Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to appoint his replacement — a move that could give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block Republican filibusters in the Senate.

“I would get the last laugh. Don’t forget Kentucky has a Democrat governor,” one of the sources quoted Bunning as saying.

“The only logical extension of that comment is, ‘(Make me mad) … enough and I’ll resign, and then you’ve got 60 Democrats,’ ” said another source who was present at the event.

The Courier-Journal found three sources who corroborated the story, and the Politico also confirmed Bunning’s comments. (For what it’s worth, yesterday, Bunning denied having made the remarks.)

In the big picture, it’s in Bunning’s interest for people to believe he really might resign if he deems the support he receives from the party insufficient. He’s giving himself quite a bit of leverage — give me what I want or I’ll walk and give the Dems #60. It would destroy his career in Republican politics, but if he’s retiring anyway, that may not matter.

It seems like a far-fetched scenario, but given what we’ve seen from Bunning in recent years, he may be just crazy enough to try it.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.