AVOIDING THE ‘NIGHTMARE SCENARIO’ IN INDIANA…. With Sen. Evan Bayh (D) shocking everyone with his retirement announcement, the state party took some comfort in knowing it would be in a position to choose the party’s next Senate candidate. There was, however, a problem that had been described as the “nightmare scenario” for Democrats in Indiana and D.C.

Tamyra D’Ippolito, a cafe owner and political neophyte, was quietly challenging Bayh in a primary. If she could qualify for the ballot before today’s filing deadline, she would be the sole Democratic candidate; it would all but guarantee a Republican victory; and there wouldn’t be a whole lot the party could do about.

A leading Democrat told Jonathan Martin, “This would be a complete and unmitigated disaster. We’d be up shit’s creek.”

To help make this scenario more likely, conservative websites like RedState and the Washington Examiner rallied to help D’Ippolito collect signatures and get on the ballot, knowing it would give Republicans a huge boost.

To the relief of Democrats everywhere, the 11th-hour dash appears to have failed badly. D’Ippolito, who seems like something of an eccentric, claimed earlier today that she’d secured the petition signatures her candidacy needed. That wasn’t exactly true.

No Democrats qualified to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) by the Tuesday noon deadline, a huge relief for party leaders who feared that an obscure candidate could make it on the ballot and seriously complicate Democratic prospects for holding onto the seat. State party officials will now select the party’s Senate nominee for November.

According to the state elections division, no Democratic candidate other than Bayh had collected the required 4,500 certified petition signatures, including the requisite 500 from each of the state’s nine congressional districts to make the ballot.

Tamyra d’Ippolito, a Bloomington cafe owner who had been challenging Bayh for the nomination, appeared to fall far short of the mark. According to state Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker, she gathered just 22 valid signatures across the state.

That’s only 4,478 signatures shy of the 4,500 she needed.

D’Ippolito seems to be arguing that there’s still some question about her petitions, but she had to get at least 500 signatures in each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts. In Marion County, she turned in one petition with three signatures — 497 names short.

State Democratic Party leaders will now have until June 30 to select a candidate, though it almost certainly won’t take that long. The leading contender appears to be Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), who has expressed an interest, though the field of interested candidates has not yet come together.

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.