An interesting development in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Colorado: a big battle that was shaping up between a young conservative upstart, State Sen. Minority Leader Josh Penry, and ex-Rep. Scott McInnis is over before it began. The conservative, Penry, has left the race and plans to endorse McInnis, according to a top GOP strategist. This is kind of a "stunner," as Chris Cillizza notes, because the incumbent governor, Bill Ritter, is in electoral peril, and Penry is an archetype of a credible, electable conservative -- just the type of person you'd think the GOP would want to support -- or would want to NOT oppose at the risk of angering conservative activists.
McInnis has tacked to the right -- he insists he's matured -- and now opposes abortion rights, but many Colorado conservatives know him as a centrist GOPer. Both he and Penry want to make the race a referendum on government spending and the economy, and have largely avoided talking about social issues. Why did Penry, who explicitly portrayed the race as a challenge to the GOP status quo, drop? There's speculation that he was pushed to do so by Republican powerbrokers, who think that McInnis is more electable and can raise more money. Most GOP poobahs in Colorado support McInnis.
Ritter's approval rating among Democrats is about 62% at the moment; Republicans are quite unified, although independents are leaning Democrat, at this point. Ritter's toughest challenge is his base: they want to raise state income taxes and end corporate tax breaks to shrink the deficit, and Ritter insists on cutting spending instead.
It's a lot like the dynamics in DC: with the gains that Colorado Democrats have experienced, Ritter sees this expansion as fragile, while the base thinks it's time to swing for the fences.