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Old Guard vs. the New: Young Republican Leader on the Rise?

A number of new Republican leaders have emerged across the country with a surge of energy in a climate dominated by Democrats.

Republican Josh Penry, currently the Senate Minority leader in Colorado, is running for governor against the incumbent Democrat Bill Ritter. The 33-year-old, who has been campaigning door to door, has a simple message: Out with the old, and in with the new. Penry is saying both the Democrats and Republicans have failed miserably in Washington.

"I think as Republicans we need to be clear, we made mistakes as a party, even as I criticize the President and Bill Ritter for the mistakes they're making today," Penry told FOX News. "We've doubled the national debt. We've surrendered the mantle of fiscal discipline, so the frustration from Republicans is projected, frankly at both parties, and that's what creates opportunities for candidates like me."

In his first week since declaring his bid for governor, Penry had blowout results in rural areas once dominated by Ritter voters in 2006. Penry says that in order to earn credibility and win the support of weary Independents and Republicans, GOP leaders have to admit, "We blew it, but here's a better way for it, here's how we're going to get the economy back on track, here's how we're going to reform the public school system." 

Penry is currently a single percentage point behind the incumbent governor in state-wide polls, according to a recent Rasmussen poll.

"There is an awakening that's taking place on the part of people who are frustrated, clearly frustrated with the Democrats, but just as frustrated with Republicans, who are stepping out for the first time and engaging the political process in hopes of getting the party back to where it should be, and in hopes of getting the state and the country back to where it should be," he told FOX News.

Penry is among a number of Republican candidates in a new pool of faces -- dubbed the “new guard” for giving the GOP a possible 2010 face-lift. “He's pretty young to take on the difficulties of running the state budget and running the state,” Democratic Colorado State Senator Moe Keller said of Penry.

Denver University Political Science Professor Seth Masket said it will be a difficult year for the Democrats, but added that Republicans face an arduous task in reviving their party. Well-versed in Colorado politics, Masket said Penry has branded himself, but is waiting to see how his policy differs from the party itself.

Meanwhile, Penry is campaigning on the recognition within his own party that it has not served the country well during the past 8 to 10 years. And this, according to Penry, allows for his message to resonate loudly:  "There are certain things government should do. We should focus our spending, focus our resources -- not big government, not no government, but disciplined, focused, limited government that deals with the things that government should be involved with," he said.

If a resurgence of Republicans does transpire on the national scene, where would it start? Mountain West is important to that conversation and Colorado is in many ways ground zero for it. If there’s going to be a national comeback for the Republican Party, will Colorado play a lead role?

Josh Penry thinks so. "If Republicans come forward with our own strong message, our own strong vision of how we would lead, we have an incredibly good opportunity to win in 2010," he said.