After the fifteenth round of voting, when Kevin McCarthy finally accomplished his decade-long quest to become speaker, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, one of the most ardent anti-McCarthy votes, didn’t quite concede defeat. She issued a statement titled “Congresswoman Boebert’s Full Statement on the Historic Victories House Conservatives Secured” that celebrated the concessions McCarthy gave to win over the holdouts. McCarthy had effectively watered down the speakership to get Boebert, Congressman Matt Gaetz, and the twenty-something others to drop their opposition to him. Those concessions alone didn’t satiate his critics, but in the end McCarthy got what he wanted. Boebert and her allies failed to keep him from becoming speaker. They, in a word, lost.
Still, you wouldn’t know it from how the Colorado congresswoman was addressing the issue in her postelection press release. “This past week we all delivered on the promises we made to our constituents. They told us Congress is broken, and we promised to work on fixing it,” Boebert said in the statement. “We’ve done just that. But we’ve got more to deliver on. We will work to close the southern border, increase domestic energy production, lower government spending, curb inflation, and so much more.”
That’s some impressive spin, but in actuality, Boebert is emerging from this speakership fight more vulnerable than when she came into it. She’s proved an ironclad commitment to buck McCarthy and Republican leadership—a commitment more hard-core than that of all but a few House colleagues, including Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. In the end that didn’t earn Boebert praise. Quite the opposite. Near the finale of the speakership fight, she found herself being scolded by Donald Trump in a phone call. A source with knowledge of the call told Politico that she and the other holdouts on the call were ripped “a new asshole.” Privately, some House Republicans have speculated McCarthy, now that he’s speaker, would seek to punish Boebert and the other dissidents who fought tooth and nail to keep him from the speaker’s gavel.
Boebert has also sparked a fresh round of discontent back home, emanating from both her last Democratic opponent, who very narrowly lost to her by a razor-thin margin in the last election, and the conservative constituents who make up the core of her base.
“I think what you see from Representative Boebert and Matt Gaetz and some of these others is part of this circus; this ‘angertainment’ of showmanship and not really trying to get to work on what a lot of people want to see happen,” said Democrat Adam Frisch, Boebert’s most recent Democratic opponent, who lost to the Colorado congresswoman by about 500 votes. Frisch said he’s been getting supportive emails and texts from Boebert constituents, including ones who didn’t vote for him, saying they wished they’d voted for him “after seeing the latest example of dysfunction. And there are a couple of people maximizing the dysfunction at the moment, and Boebert certainly is very proud of leading that dysfunctionality.”
Boebert’s action may seem nonsensical to your typical lawmaker in the same position. The usual playbook for a legislator who just barely survived reelection is to pull back on the incendiary rhetoric and moves that apparently drove so many voters to seek to oust her. Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that even conservative Republicans in Boebert’s district—one that hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in over a decade and hasn’t gone for a Democratic presidential candidate in over 20 years—were put off by her theatrics.
The AP report, with a dateline from Rifle, Colorado, said constituents “laud Boebert for defending their rights, but cringe at her provocations, contributing to an unexpectedly tight race last year that she won by just 546 votes out of more than 300,000 cast.” The same article quoted Boebert as being unapologetic. She said, “In the minority, all I had was my voice, the only thing I could do was be loud about the things I’m passionate about.… We have to lead right now, we have to show Americans that we deserve to be in the majority.”
But to Frisch and others, Boebert’s version of leading is just creating more chaos. “I think people are realizing that there are serious issues that need to be addressed in our country and they’re not being addressed while there’s this circus going on in D.C.,” Frisch continued.
That discontent is enough to keep Frisch thinking about challenging Boebert again. When asked if he would do so, he offered the type of nonresponse a former candidate who wants to run again but isn’t sure if he should typically gives.
“The reasons that got me thinking about this race in the fall of 2021 are not only still there but have just been fleshed out in neon lights on national television over the past week,” Frisch said, adding that “the citizens of CD-3 are pragmatic and want people to focus on them, their businesses, their families, and their communities, and not on themselves, and they want people to actually get down to business and not be part of this performative art that [Boebert] and Matt Gaetz are doing.”
Steve House, a former Colorado Republican Party chairman, said that Boebert is at an inflection point. The path she’s going down could lead to an all-too-familiar situation for her where she is all talk and no real action. “At some point, some people become strictly argumentative,” House said. “I mean we’ve seen that over the years in Congress, where there are voices that don’t author a lot of legislation. They basically get mad at everything that happens and make themselves known. I think it’s an inflection point for her.”
So ordinary Boebert backers, would-be Colorado allies, and the guy who posted the most serious electoral threat Boebert has ever faced all smell blood in the water for her. Yet the two-term Colorado congresswoman is either in denial or doesn’t care about all the warning lights going off. Monday night on Laura Ingraham’s Ingraham Angle Boebert, appearing alongside Gaetz, said, “Really, last week was the most productive week I have experienced in Congress.”
Boebert isn’t on her political deathbed just yet. The early indicators are that her colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus don’t think she went irreversibly too far. But, again, that’s a fraction of the folks Boebert has to keep happy. What’s clear is that coming out of this leadership fight, Boebert, no longer a freshman member of Congress, decided to act in a way that put herself on shakier ground among her constituents and allies. On the surface she’s saying it was all worth it, but that is probably her just saving face as she realizes what she’s done. And Frisch, and the voters, are paying attention.