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What's making Josh Penry wave the white flag?

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There weren't a lot of hints in advance regarding state senator Josh Penry's decision to pull the plug on his gubernatorial campaign, which he's expected to do later today. This past Thursday, Penry spokesman Andrew Cole roundly ridiculed rival Scott McInnis' no-debating stance in this space, insisting that "there are inconsistencies in his argument about party unity" and declaring, "If, at the end of the day, you can't stand up in front of a friendly audience and debate a fellow Republican, why should those voters think you can stand up and debate Bill Ritter when it really matters?" Even more telling: Cole's introduction to his daily roundup of "need to know" news articles sent to members of the media yesterday morning, mere hours before the first reports of his back-down surfaced. After taking a swing at Ritter for allegedly proposing to "tax soda in order to pay for new cubicles for government bureaucrats," Cole wrote, "Competition seems to [be] bringing out the best in the Republican gubernatorial candidates."

McInnis clearly disagrees -- which may be why his attempts at magnanimity in advance of Penry's official pull-out feel strained.

Just shy of 6 p.m. yesterday, the McInnis team sent out a three-sentence press release under the banner "McInnis Believes Penry's Future is Bright." The text reiterates that headline without adding much more info. It reads: "Scott McInnis has a tremendous amount of respect for Josh Penry and his team. Scott believes that Josh's future is bright and today is his day. We will have further comment in the near future."

So will Penry -- but expect his announcement to be more about spin than the real story. His likeliest motivator for surrender involved fundraising difficulties, even though Cole swore things were going well in this arena in his Thursday chat with yours truly: "Our last fundraising quarter surprised everyone and surpassed our own internal goals," he maintained. Another possible factor -- pressure from the GOP power structure, which didn't want to see a party split along the lines of the one that allowed Bill Owens (the Democrat from New York, not the conservative from Colorado) to win what had previously been a safe Republican congressional seat in New York state. Penry's young, and he obviously didn't want to poison his rep with Dick Wadhams and company if he didn't feel he could top McInnis.

But why embrace these positions so suddenly -- Penry couldn't have dropped his campaign faster if he'd found out McInnis had photos of him leaving a Motel 6 with Francis Owens -- when such factors have been plain for ages? The abruptness of Penry's departure raises plenty of questions, none of which he's likely to answer.

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