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New survey charts Josh Penry's rise

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Bill Ritter may be trying to establish his fiscal conservatism

amid the necessity to make even deeper budget cuts -- a strategy that closely echoes the one being used right now by Josh Penry, who seems to be emerging as Ritter's likely Republican opponent in the 2010 election. The video above, from

Penry's campaign website

, features a line knocking empty promises from both political parties, touting young Josh as "a reform-minded conservative" -- and the crowd obviously loves it. In unintentionally comic over-editing, an audience can be seen and heard cheering after everything Penry says; it's the equivalent of a laugh track from a '60s sitcom in which no sentence is too banal to earn a titter.

More important at this stage, though, is applause from the Republican base -- and Penry seems to be prompting more of that as well. An informal, unscientific survey of 500 GOP-minded folks by a site called The Next Right shows Penry with a 17 percentage point lead over his next nearest opponent, Scott McInnis. Other results: When asked what U.S. Senate candidate they would vote for if the Republican primary was today, respondents narrowly chose Ryan Frazier over Jane Norton -- but in a separate category, the same group thought Norton would be the stronger candidate. Eh? In addition, the survey-takers judged Andrew Romanoff to be a more formidable Democratic senatorial candidate than Michael Bennet, who currently holds the office -- although that may constitute wishful thinking.

Read Ben DeGrow's synopsis of the findings below, and peruse the specific results by clicking here.

Introducing the top-line results from the 2nd edition of the survey of Colorado's political temperature. Exactly 500 people participated in the project. It's not exactly scientific, but El Presidente and I created it to be more in-depth and meaningful than your run-of-the-mill straw poll.

Bottom line? It's becoming more apparent that Josh Penry is beginning to establish himself as the Republican frontrunner in the governor's race, while the U.S. Senate primary seems to be turning into a tough, 3-way race on the GOP side. Coming later in the week will be an analysis of some key crosstabs and correlations. But for now here's a quick rundown of the survey's top-line results:

• The biggest winner, making significant gains in both support and perceived strength since our July survey, is gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry

• The larger shifting field of the U.S. Senate race gives a less clear picture, with Ryan Frazier edging out Ken Buck for most support, and Jane Norton beating Frazier by a similarly narrow margin for perceived strength

• The heavily Right-leaning crowd definitely shows more respect for Andrew Romanoff as a Democratic rival in the race than for appointed incumbent Michael Bennet

• Among the other races, treasurer candidate J.J. Ament made the biggest gains, while Scott Gessler (Secretary of State) and Cory Gardner (4th Congressional) widened their respective leads

• Demographically speaking, the group of participants in this poll was slightly more Republican, older, female, married, educated and non-white than the July sample

• Overall, those surveyed are more confident that Democrat policies in Washington will harm elected Democrats' chances in the 2010 election, and believe that Bennet, Bill Ritter, and Betsy Markey are more vulnerable than two months ago

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