Editor’s note: This story was first published by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
And the hits keep on coming.
No matter what newly minted Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., says or does, whether one finds it appropriate or not, there’s someone, somewhere who will attack the Republican congresswoman for saying or doing it.
It doesn’t stop either, and oftentimes, it’s downright nasty.
Last fall, candidate Boebert was the subject of attack ads that included old arrest photos posted on billboards. Now, the billboards instead call for Boebert to be expelled from her position.
But what her opponents don’t seem to understand is that to Boebert’s fans, the more they attack the freshman lawmaker, the more emboldened she — and they — become. All it does is get her supporters to rally behind the Silt Republican, her allies and some political observers say.
“She will have a very solid majority that will stick with her,” said longtime GOP political consultant and former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams. “I wish she would tone down some of her tweets, but the base that loves her, and will support her regardless what the scenario is, they do like it and they do believe in her.”
Those observers say that Boebert, who did not respond to requests for comment on this article, knew exactly what she was doing when she first entered the race to defeat 10-year incumbent Scott Tipton in the GOP primary last summer. And, they say, she knows what she’s doing now, at least politically.
She played to Republican base beliefs, used conservative talk radio expertly and continues to taunt her opponents and feed fresh fodder to her supporters on social media, and doing so in former President Donald Trump-like fashion, several times a day.
She does it with a savvy that few anticipated or can compete with, Wadhams and others said.
In that way, she’s nearly fulfilled her first campaign promise, to be the conservative version of her arch rival: AOC, also known as U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken New York Democrat.
Like Boebert when it comes to defending conservative issues in her first months in office, Ocasio-Cortez, too, quickly became a national hit to her party in pushing liberal ideals during her first congressional term in 2019.
Like Boebert, Ocasio-Cortez came from humble beginnings, working as a waitress (Boebert owns Shooter’s Grill restaurant in Rifle) before running for office for the first time. She, too, defeated a congressional veteran, former U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, in a Democratic primary.
And like Boebert, Ocasio-Cortez became a frequent guest on numerous cable news programs and talk shows that had some calling her the new face of the Democratic Party.
Boebert is quickly becoming that for the Republican Party, said Floyd Ciruli, a University of Denver public opinion and foreign policy professor, who also is director of DU’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research.
“She is now a national media star, a national fundraising star, and she will have the full backing of most Republicans who both want to save the seat and those who are of the Trump ilk,” Ciruli said. “There may be some Republicans that are simply put off by her, particularly if she does something more rash than she’s done, but I don’t think there’s anything she’s done so far that is, well, let’s just say that if I put her on a rating with (U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor) Greene, she’s less radical.”
The thing about all this, Wadhams and Ciruli say, is that either the Democrats don’t care how negative they go against Boebert in their attempts to unseat her, or they just don’t have enough arrows in their quiver to do anything else.
At some point, their tactics will reach a point of diminishing returns, if it hasn’t already, they said, adding that the more Democrats point out what they believe are Boebert’s character flaws, the more her supporters see the opposite in her.
“Does it hurt her? Probably not, and I think the Democrats overestimate their ability to make that an issue,” added Wadhams. “I don’t think a lot of Democrats fundamentally understand the culturally conservative nature of the district.”
MEAT AND BACON
That may be partly because Democrats in the conservative-leaning 3rd Congressional District aren’t like other Democrats, the two men said. They are more akin to blue collar voters in Michigan, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania than they are to East Coast — or even Denver — Democrats.
The more left those Front Range Democrats push the state with their agenda, the more right 3rd CD voters will go, particularly when it comes to such things as gun regulations, land and agricultural issues or energy production. So-called liberal voters in the district tend to side with conservatives on those matters, Wadhams and Ciruli said.
Last year’s referendum to reintroduce wolves to the Western Slope is one example. Another is a proposed 2022 ballot measure that would impose stricter laws concerning animal cruelty, also known as the Pause Act, particularly when it comes to how livestock are raised and slaughtered.
“The MeatOut resolution and this proposition that may be going onto the ballot to ban a bunch of procedures that farmers and ranchers rely on to make their living, every time that happens it tends to define Democrats as generally out of touch with the cultural background of the 3rd CD,” Wadhams said. “Democrats continue to give the image they’re just moving headlong to the left. I don’t think they have any idea just how much damage they do to their brand outside the Denver metro area when they do this kind of stuff.”
The concept of “bringing home the bacon” in judging a lawmaker’s worth is no longer defined by how many federal dollars they can divert to their home districts.
“Bringing home the bacon, that’s sort of our (political) theory, to us older guys,” Ciruli said. “Ask (former U.S. Sen.) Cory Gardner about bringing home the bacon. He brought home so much bacon, it was unbelievable. Today, the bacon is symbolic. It’s more like, are you out fighting for me? Did you take on (former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke) on guns? She’s scored a lot of points on all of that, and she’s good at it. She gets right up to the lights. She knows how to get on TV.”
Currently, a handful of Democratic candidates have announced plans to seek their party’s nomination to challenge Boebert in 2022. More may come and go after the state’s new Congressional Redistricting Commission redraws district lines when they finally get U.S. Census data later this year.
Because Colorado’s population has greatly increased over the past decade, the state is expected to gain an eighth congressional seat. That means district lines, particularly for the expansive 3rd CD, could be dramatically altered.
Currently, party affiliation in the district favors Republicans by about 5 percentage points, about the same margin that Boebert won last fall. It either will remain about the same, become more competitive or turn into a relatively safe seat for Republicans.
As a result, some candidates may choose not to announce until that is known, such as Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat who is considered by some, including Wadhams and Ciruli, as offering the Dems their best chance at winning the seat.
About half a dozen have already announced their bids, including two of Garcia’s colleagues in the Colorado Legislature: Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Rep. Donald Valdez, whose already earned the endorsement of two Democratic Pueblo County commissioners.
For now, Donovan is considered the Democratic frontrunner, but her problem is that while the vast majority of her Senate district is in the 3rd, she lives in Vail, which isn’t (although her family’s ranch where she also works is in Wolcott, which is in the district).
That may change with redistricting, but it won’t help her win support from Pueblo, a Democratic stronghold that has voted conservative in recent years. Boebert, for example, only lost that county by about half a percentage point.
For a Democrat to take the district, winning Pueblo by a much wider margin is a must, and that’s assuming Pueblo still is in the district by next year’s elections.
Garcia, who hasn’t yet revealed his future political plans, said that Pueblo voters are just like many others in the 3rd CD, they have an independent mindset and prefer candidates who are genuine, and have a clear idea of what they want to accomplish.
Garcia, who is term limited and can’t run for his state Senate seat again, said that partly explains why Tipton repeatedly won Pueblo, but is uncertain voters there, or anywhere else in the district, will continue to buy what Boebert is selling if she doesn’t show she’s doing things to address her constituents’ chief concerns.
“There’s something to be said about someone who’s willing to fight, but there’s also something to be said about someone who understands when you should fight,” Garcia said. “As a Marine who served in Iraq in 2003, I’m always fascinated by some of her rhetoric about freedom and defending and the Constitution. She wants to portray herself as having that good fight, but I would say it’s just a tweet, it’s just a Facebook post. You’re not having a real fight. You’re not actually representing your constituents. You’re just tweeting.”
ON DEAF EARS
Despite long-established political thinking that holds that while negative campaigning can motivate a candidate’s political base, it tends to alienate centrists and moderate voters, particularly if it goes on for too long.
Despite that, several groups that have already lined up to attack Boebert whenever and wherever possible show no signs of stopping.
In addition to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Colorado Turnout Project, Rural Colorado United and the Brady PAC have all lined up to join the fight to unseat Boebert, and none of them are waiting for next year’s election to start.
Brian Lemek, executive director the Brady PAC, a sister organization of Brady, a national group dedicated to the enactment of laws to reduce gun violence, doesn’t buy into a premise that too much negative campaigning against Boebert might backfire and help her get re-elected.
That group, like the others, plan to make unseating Boebert their top priority in the 2022 races.
“The more we reveal and shed light on her efforts to grow her own personal brand versus being a good legislator for her constituents in Colorado (3rd CD), the more people will be aware that this woman is out for herself, she is not out for us,” Lemek said. “What is she doing on our key issues for the district? You can look, and not even that hard, and see nothing. We just reveal the truth. We trust Colorado 3 constituents to make their own decisions.”
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland, who started supporting Boebert since before she first announced her congressional bid in 2019, said that negative tactic absolutely will backfire.
Currently, Rowland is part of a local effort that is trying to defuse the political vitriol that has grown exponentially nationwide, much of which she says is a direct result of social media and users’ proclivity to spread negative comments, oftentimes without having command of all the facts.
When it comes to Boebert, Rowland says most people just haven’t taken the time to get to know her and fully understand what she stands for, but instead listen to their own echo chambers that reverberate only the messages they want to hear.
“It usually comes from people who have never met her, so they have this perception of who she is and what she believes and the type of person she is, and they look for things that will prove their belief, instead of taking things on face value,” Rowland said.
“When you know someone personally, and you hear some outrageous claims about them, you tend to give them the benefit of the doubt,” she added. “When you don’t know a person, and when you don’t make any attempt to know that person, if you have a negative concept about that person, you just run with it whether they are true or not.”
Regardless, get ready for more, because both sides are just clearing their throats.