Column: Lauren Boebert is her own best asset — and worst enemy — as she fights to stay in Congress

A woman with dark hair, in a white dress and deep pink jacket, stands near other people outside the Capitol
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) says she moved to a new congressional district to give her troubled family a fresh start. But opponents say it was political move aimed at boosting her reelection chances.
(Francis Chung / Associated Press)
Share via

Lauren Boebert was preaching to the faithful, prowling the stage of a megachurch and delivering a sermon — filled with Scripture and references to Christ and Satan — taken straight from the Book of Grievance.

She spit fire.

At President Biden and denizens of the Beltway swamp. At those criminally prosecuting former President Trump. At politicians presuming to substitute their judgment for God’s. And, not least, at the “sellouts” within her own Republican Party.

“Every time that dirty four-letter word called ‘compromise’ comes up,” Boebert fumed, “it’s always Republicans stepping away from their principles, their platform, your priorities and siding with socialists, communists and Marxists.”

The darkened sanctuary of the Rez Church filled with claps, whoops and cries of “yes!”

Travels with: Lauren Boebert - bumper sticker logo

Columnist Mark Z. Barabak joins candidates for various offices as they hit the campaign trail in this momentous election year.

With her swaggering persona, distinctly non-Washington wardrobe and gleeful trampling of protocols — heckling Biden during his State of the Union speech, toting a pistol in defiance of the capital’s tough gun laws — Boebert made herself one of the most prominent faces of a feral breed of conservatives attacking Congress from within.

It didn’t play so well back home.

Despite her district’s solidly Republican leaning, Boebert very nearly lost her seat after a single term, to a Democrat who assailed her headline-hunting and “angertainment” approach to office. Facing a tough rematch, she abruptly decamped this year to a district clear on the other side of Colorado, where the Republican faces five opponents in a June 25 primary — many with deep roots in the region.

A woman in a blue top and glasses gives a thumbs down next to a man with dark hair, in suit and dark tie
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) gives a thumbs down as she sits with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) during President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address.
(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP/Getty Images)

“This is where I grew up,” conservative activist Deborah Flora pointedly stated as Boebert scribbled notes alongside her at a breakfast forum in Castle Rock, a fast-growing exurb on the far edge of Denver’s sprawling metropolitan area. “This is where I raised my children.”


“I promise not to embarrass you,” another opponent, Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg, chimed in. “I promise not to humiliate you.”

Sonnenberg wasn’t any more specific. He didn’t have to be.

In September, Boebert was tossed out of a Denver showing of the musical “Beetlejuice” after vaping, carrying on and getting handsy with her date. The scene was captured on camera and the PG-13 clip went viral, turning the 37-year-old lawmaker into a national punchline.

Worse, from a political standpoint, the off-color episode raised doubts about Boebert’s judgment and impetuous nature, and badly undermined her image as a family-minded conservative and devout Christian.

She has apologized repeatedly, though at times Boebert seems less than contrite.

Rallying a few hundred supporters at the Rez Church in Loveland, she assailed the $95-billion military aid package Biden just signed into law, calling the emergency relief for Ukraine and others a shameful product of Republican treachery and Democratic deceit.

“More political theater in Washington, D.C.,” she sniped. “If there’s any theater to criticize, I think it’s that one.”

The response was knowing laughter and a smattering of applause.

“Praise the Lord for his mercy,” Boebert added after a beat.

“And yours.”


Boebert is, in many ways, her own greatest political asset.

She’s a charismatic campaigner, filling a room with her slight 5-foot frame and a fusillade of attacks that issue forth in a high-volume, highly caffeinated rat-a-tat: against “open borders,” a “woke and weaponized federal government,” “the corruption of the Biden crime family,” say-one-thing-do-another Republicans.


“When I go to D.C., it isn’t to have fancy dinners with lobbyists and special-interest groups,” she told several dozen Republican regulars at the Castle Rock breakfast. “That is not a representative. That’s a welfare recipient.”

When Boebert moves about, she’s swarmed by selfie-seeking fans, reflecting the celebrity that’s turned her into a national personality and built a formidable fundraising base. (The $3.4 million and counting that Boebert has raised so far is several times more than her Republican opponents combined.)

But the reputation preceding her also makes Boebert her own worst enemy.

A woman with dark hair, in glasses and dark jacket, is flanked by men in suit and tie
Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, attending a news conference defending former President Trump, is less a Republican than a MAGA stalwart.
(Tom Williams / Roll Call )

It’s not just the “Beetlejuice” episode. Details of her nasty divorce, including a restraining order against Boebert’s ex-husband, have been splattered across the media. In February, the oldest of Boebert’s four sons was arrested and charged with identity theft and other crimes.

She cited the personal shambles as the reason she switched districts, moving from western to eastern Colorado. “I wanted a fresh start for my boys,” Boebert said in an interview — though she could have very well stayed in her old district, which is roughly the size of Pennsylvania, and still put some distance between herself and her ex-husband.

Some voters question whether Boebert, with all her mess, is worth the trouble.

Larry, a 73-year-old retired postal worker, showed up at the fairgrounds in Castle Rock to look over the congressional field and eye Boebert in person. (He declined to state his last name to avoid being hassled for giving his opinion.)


“I like her voting record and the way she stands up to Democrats,” Larry said, as he added creamer to his coffee. “But I’m not sure about her leaving her district. And as a devout Christian, from a moral standpoint, I don’t like her antics at the theater in Denver.”

For some, however, Boebert’s don’t-give-a-flip attitude and not-in-the-least-conventional biography — she’s a high school dropout and became a grandmother at age 36 — make her authentic in a way most politicians aren’t.

Bill Bennett brought his French bulldog, Donald J. Tank, to see Boebert when she dropped by a coffee shop in Elizabeth, farm country about 15 miles east of Castle Rock. Portraits of livestock and multiple crosses filled the small space, which barely contained the 75 or so who crowded in.

Bennett, a 61-year-old civil contractor who switched from independent to Republican when Trump became president, wasn’t the least fazed by Boebert’s unruly escapades.

“She’s a total bad-ass. A total bad-ass,” he said, holding a Boebert for Congress sign in one hand and Tank’s leash in the other, “and I love that. We need strength and she’s got backbone. We need backbone in the Republican Party. I can’t stress that enough.”

In fact, Boebert may perhaps best be described as a Republican in name only, an epithet she frequently hurls at others; her allegiance is to Trump and the MAGA movement, not the expectations or designs of the Grand Old Party.


Boebert’s special guest in Elizabeth was Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson, a fellow traveler in the GOP’s burn-down-the-House caucus, who drove straight from Amarillo — a six-hour trip — to lend his support. Boasting of his contrarian approach, Jackson described his political “superpower” as not giving “a damn what anyone says about me.”

Boebert smiled broadly and clapped enthusiastically.


Whoever wins the GOP primary is virtually certain to be the next representative from Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. (The incumbent, Ken Buck, unexpectedly stepped down in March; a caretaker is running in a separate contest to fill the final few months of his term.)

Unlike Boebert’s old district, which includes the posh mountain resorts of Aspen and Telluride, the new one is as flat and Republican as neighboring Kansas. There’s a broad streak of Christian conservatism, more akin to the South or Midwest than the rest of Colorado. Farming and ranching, not apres-ski, are the major industries.

In short, this is Trump Country.

In 2020, the former president won the 4th District by nearly three times his margin in Boebert’s old district. That makes Trump’s support for Boebert vitally important. He’s showcased in one of her TV spots — “Lauren, you’re gonna do fantastically” — and his son Donald Jr. appeared alongside her at church in Loveland, after campaigning for Boebert in her former district last summer.

Past a small forest of American flags, past tables of Trump merchandise and two armed policemen standing guard, Trump Jr. performed more than 30 minutes of political stand-up, mocking Biden (“this dips— has the nuclear codes?”) and making light of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, before turning to the business at hand.

He acknowledged Boebert’s relatively recent arrival to the district, but said she “obviously made a mark in D.C., because they’re going after her like you wouldn’t believe. That’s a good thing. That, in and of itself, is probably the only endorsement you need. If the D.C. swamp people — especially the Republicans — dislike you, that’s probably a no-brainer.”


Boebert may be a newcomer, but having the most money and highest name recognition (for good and ill) makes her the candidate to beat. Running against a lone rival or two would be one thing. But with multiple candidates splitting the Republican vote, Boebert’s standing with the MAGA base — which may be 35% or more of the primary electorate — could be enough to send her back to Washington.

“It’s an environment that gives her a lot of advantages,” said Seth Masket, head of the University of Denver’s Center on American Politics, who’s closely followed the race. “But it doesn’t guarantee a win.”

The question is whether Boebert can stay out of her own way — and keep out of any more trouble — between now and the June primary.

“I do live large,” she said, unabashedly, in a conversation between campaign stops. “I live fast. I am very spontaneous.”

So put that down as a maybe.