UPDATE #2: No Penry run for Rep. John Salazar’s CD-3 seat or Lt. Gov., says MSNBC (pretty much what we said at the bottom of the post a little earlier):
A campaign source says that up-and-comer Josh Penry decided against a CO-GOV primary challenge against Scott McInnis, his former boss when McInnis was in Congress, because he was scared off, in part, by a 527 that was ramping up for McInnis that was set to go after Penry. [Pols emphasis] He is sitting out the 2010 cycle and is NOT running for CO-3 despite the rumors…
The source added that Penry’s Name ID, they were seeing, was only about 15% to 20% statewide, and Penry felt that a 527 and a nasty political fight could have ruined or significantly damaged his reputation and hurt his political capital with Republicans. This path helps Penry, who’s only 33, build up political capital, the source said.
UPDATE: Denver Post puts uncertainty to bed, though Penry himself has yet to make a statement:
Two sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on Penry’s behalf confirmed for The Denver Post that Penry intends to leave the race.
One source said an announcement was imminent and that Penry met with McInnis Monday morning to inform him of the decision. Penry explained he was leaving the race for “personal reasons,” the source said.
Penry has not returned phone calls seeking comment…
Washington Post’s The Fix blog, holy [expletive]:
Colorado state Sen. Josh Penry (R) plans to end his gubernatorial campaign and endorse former Rep. Scott McInnis (R), according to two sources familiar with his thinking.
Penry’s decision to opt out of the race is a stunner as many national Republicans had touted him as a potential rising star (and we had featured him in our “Rising” series that looks at up and coming politicians).
Chatter in the immediate aftermath of Penry’s decision suggested he may well be considering a run against 3rd district Rep. John Salazar (D) who won the Western Slope seat when McInnis retired in 2004. Salazar’s seat is one of 49 held by Democrats that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried in 2008. (McCain won it 50 percent to 48 percent for President Barack Obama.)
McInnis, who spent six terms in Congress, now has a clear shot at Gov. Bill Ritter (D) next fall. Democrats have expressed serious concern about Ritter’s electoral prospects and his poll numbers have lagged badly since he was elected in a landslide in 2006.
Obviously this would be a major move, but it would make a lot of sense. For all the “rising star” accolades, Penry is clearly not yet ready for a race like this, and badly losing a primary is a quick way to end both the “rising” and the “star.” A Penry loss also knocks him out of the State Senate and his Minority Leader status, leaving him in a tough spot to make a jump to higher office at a later date.
If this is true, it makes much more sense for Penry to run for re-election to the Senate and then re-assess his future later. Leaving this race to take on Rep. John Salazar and his million-dollar warchest would be silly and completely counterproductive. You don’t leave a tough race that you might lose in order to run in another tough race that you might lose (especially when there is no way to transfer the money you raised for Governor to a Federal campaign).
As for McInnis, internal polling numbers and fundraising reports obviously show that he is in a great position. This is what we said when McInnis announced he wouldn’t debate Penry — clearly McInnis knew he was in the catbird’s seat.
The timing of Penry’s announcement does put McInnis in an interesting predicament where Gov. Bill Ritter is concerned. McInnis was in a great position where he was — raising money and not having to stake out positions on tough issues — but now he can’t avoid the spotlight as the presumptive GOP nominee (sorry, Dan Maes). Whether McInnis is really ready for that is another question.
And finally, this is the worst-case scenario for Ritter. Both polling and common sense (McInnis is much more moderate than Penry) showed that Penry was the better general election opponent for Ritter; but even if McInnis had won the primary outright, at least he would have had to spend the next nine months in a slugfest. Now McInnis can save all of his powder for the general election.