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Feb. 5, 2023

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After narrowly winning reelection, will Lauren Boebert tone down her rhetoric?


DENVER — U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert narrowly — and as of yet unofficially — won her second term in Congress last month, with just a few hundred votes separating her from Democrat Adam Frisch.

While the challenge from Frisch was stronger than most people anticipated, Boebert’s poor showing at the polls can also be interpreted as a repudiation of her confrontational persona by Western Slope voters.

Now that the far-right congresswoman is heading into a likely second term in office, the question nagging political experts who spoke to The Denver Post is whether she’ll tone down her incendiary and sometimes even dangerous rhetoric.

Probably not, they say.

“It’s hard to imagine what a more-tempered, moderate, careful Lauren Boebert would look like,” said Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a professor of history and gender studies at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I have a hard time envisioning what that person would look like publicly and politically.”

Representatives for Boebert, of Silt, did not respond to a request for comment, but some of the congresswoman’s recent remarks seem to indicate that she has no intention of changing course.

Boebert and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl received sharp criticism of their anti-LGBTQ stances last month after a gunman walked into a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs and opened fire, killing five and injuring 22.

The congresswoman defended her repeated anti-LGBTQ comments just a few days after the shooting during a conversation with conservative radio host Ross Kaminsky.

“I have never had bad rhetoric towards anyone and their personal preference as an adult,” Boebert said. “What I’ve criticized is the sexualization of our children. And I’ve criticized men dressing up as caricatures of women.”

Sexual orientation isn’t a preference, the American Psychological Association states.

Boebert also took flak during her first term for calling women “weaker” than men, saying she’s “tired of this separation of church and state junk,” and for her Islamophobic comments implying that Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar might be a terrorist.

“The combination of nearly losing her seat and now being in the majority could cause (Boebert) to rethink her approach,” Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver, said. “On the other hand, it’s not clear that she has a lower gear to shift into.”

Throughout Boebert’s few years in public life, she’s regularly made headlines for her tweets (she has more than 2 million followers, split between two accounts), church pulpits or even the House floor as she heckled President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address this year.

The congresswoman’s Christian nationalist rhetoric led Du Mez and several of her contemporaries to say it presents a danger to the country’s democratic foundations.

The bomb-throwing plays well with a national conservative audience, Casey Burgat, a legislative affairs program director at George Washington University, said. Boebert has a louder microphone than most of her colleagues in Congress and tapping into that national audience spreads her fundraising efforts far and wide.

She’s building a national, far-right brand, Burgat said.

But that brand doesn’t always play so well back home in Colorado.

“The shtick wears thin,” Burgat said. “It gets exhausting for voters, especially when they have to explain that behavior to their friends.”

And while the money Boebert raises through her national profile certainly helps, every two years she must rely on the voters in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District to send her back for another term, Burgat said.

Softening her edges both online and on news segments would likely benefit Boebert within her district, Burgat, a Fort Collins native, said. But that would likely come at a cost to her national stature, in which she’s seen as a flag-bearer for the MAGA wing of politics, in lockstep with former President Donald Trump.

Plus because so much of her rhetoric stems from her religious convictions, Du Mez estimated that Boebert would be less likely to pull back because she’d be unwilling to compromise those values.

Republican leaders in Congress also don’t appear to be pressuring Boebert to tamp down the bombast, Du Mez added. So as long as she can hold on to her seat, there appears to be little reason for the congresswoman to change course.

If she chooses to run for a third term in 2024, Boebert would likely be able to lean on Republican turnout during the presidential year for a bigger buffer between herself and the Democratic nominee, Masket noted.

But at the same time, because Frisch came so close to unseating the congresswoman, she might face stronger challenges both from within her party during the primaries and from Democrats during the general election.