WE WON’T HAVE BUNNING TO KICK AROUND ANYMORE…. Perhaps the only good thing about having Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) around is that no one knows what kind of bizarre behavior he might engage in next.

With his re-election prospects looking poor next year, Bunning’s Republican colleagues have begged him to retire. Yesterday, he agreed to step down at the end of his term.

Bunning announced Monday that he’s ending his bid for a third term, bringing to a close a multimonth-long saga that pitted the 77-year-old Hall of Famer against a Republican leadership that sent strong signals that he should step aside for the good of the party.

“Unfortunately, running for office is not just about the issues,” Bunning said in a statement Monday. “To win a general election, a candidate has to be able to raise millions of dollars to get the message out to voters. Over the past year, some of the leaders of the Republican Party in the Senate have done everything in their power to dry up my fundraising.

“The simple fact is that I have not raised the funds necessary to run an effective campaign for the U.S. Senate,” Bunning said. “For this reason, I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2010.”

This is a setback for the DSCC, which was looking forward to a race against the erratic, confused conservative incumbent, and becomes one of those rare campaigns when the incumbent party’s chances improve when the sitting lawmaker doesn’t seek re-election.

Bunning’s departure was, however, the right move. Indeed, it’s several years overdue. In his 2004 race, Bunning was one of those rare candidates who actually, literally, seemed to be suffering the effects of dementia. He would fail to show up for campaign events; he skipped a debate he agreed to participate in; and he lied about using a teleprompter in a different debate in which he wasn’t supposed to use one. He insisted on traveling with a special police escort, at taxpayer expense, for fear of a terrorist attack.

When local journalists asked that he release his medical records, Bunning refused. As the campaign wore on, Bunning was unaware of current events, and boasted he only knew what Fox News told him. He inexplicably won on Election Day with 51% of the vote.

In his second term, Bunning’s condition deteriorated further. Earlier this year, for example, Bunning decided not to show up for work for a while, and refused to say where he was. More recently, he stopped talking to his Republican colleagues, threatened to file a lawsuit against the NRSC for its lack of support, and started making ridiculous medical diagnoses of Supreme Court justices.

Bunning’s departure is great news for Republicans, but more important, it’s even better news for the Senate itself.

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.