Although the first reports of the withdrawal of gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry from the GOP primary claimed his sudden exit from the race was due to “personal reasons,” multiple outlets have turned today to a, if you will, more plausible narrative–that Penry didn’t leave the race willingly. The Denver Post’s updated report today:
Faced with the threat of an independent political machine opposing him and the prospect of lackluster fundraising, Republican state Sen. Josh Penry of Grand Junction has decided to end his campaign for governor…
Penry, 33, was facing fundraising challenges, especially with big-money names in the state who had launched a political committee aimed at anyone opposing McInnis. The nonprofit committee, known as a 501(c)(4), legally permits donors to contribute unlimited amounts of money with limited disclosure.
That message was sent to Penry.
That’s consistent with the story being reported pretty much everywhere today. We’ve heard the message that the Republican powers-that-be intended to clear the field for Scott McInnis was delivered to Penry by kingpin funder Phil Anschutz personally, on behalf of other principal GOP donors like Alex Cranberg and American Furniture Warehouse CEO Jake Jabs.
That’s how it goes sometimes in the rough-and-tumble world of politics, but there are some lingering questions about this that could be troublesome for McInnis. For one thing, might this “independent committee” that frightened Penry into submission have any relationship to “my 527” from McInnis’ infamous voicemail message? Since McInnis has already admitted far more than he should about knowledge of supposedly uncoordinated resources…how much did he know about Anschutz and friends threatening Penry over the weekend?
As interesting (and even legally problematic) as that all may be, we think the risk in this story for McInnis is simpler–he’s not the choice of the conservative base, the base’s candidate is the one who got punked. By McInnis’ well-heeled supporters. Anything that feeds the narrative of rich insiders making the base’s primary choice for them is extremely dangerous to McInnis politically, and risks a backlash that money cannot control (see: Dede Scozzafava).