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Colorado's Lauren Boebert campaign will decide if she remains a congresswoman

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert has built a reputation far outside her home state of Colorado. One of her first votes in Congress was against certifying the 2020 presidential election. She heckled President Biden during a State of the Union address. And a couple years ago, she nearly lost her seat in a Republican district to a relatively unknown Democrat. Well, now she's running again in a different part of Colorado. The primary is tomorrow, and Colorado Public Radio's Caitlyn Kim has been reporting on this campaign that'll determine whether Lauren Boebert keeps the title congresswoman. Caitlin, thanks for being here.

CAITLYN KIM, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: Why did Lauren Boebert move to the other side of the state to run in a different district this year?

KIM: So Boebert has offered two main reasons. You know, she went through this pretty nasty divorce, and this move would be a fresh start for her and her sons. But her current district is huge. You know, it makes up most of the Western half of the state and the southern part of Colorado, so she could have easily moved within the district and been hundreds of miles away. The other reason and probably the main driver is fear of losing. Last election, Boebert won reelection in her current district by just over 500 votes in a district that leans seven points for Republicans.

SHAPIRO: Wow.

KIM: She was facing the same Democratic challenger, Adam Frisch, who has been outraising her by millions, and Boebert was facing a really tough reelection and the very real possibility of losing the third.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LAUREN BOEBERT: I believe that Colorado's 3rd District - whomever that nominee is, it will be in good hands, and it'll be in Republican hands. And I believe that we will save that seat.

KIM: And that was as blunt of an acknowledgment you'll get from her that she could have lost had she stayed in the third, whereas another Republican, you know, depending on who the Republican is, can likely win.

SHAPIRO: Well, that sort of speaks to her political standing in this state. What have you heard from voters on the campaign trail in this new district, where she's running now?

KIM: You know, Boebert and her brand of politics definitely has fans in the 4th District. There are also plenty of people that have been put off by it. You know, here's Justin Claussen (ph). He's a rural Republican voter in the district who's been going back and forth between Boebert and one of her challengers.

JUSTIN CLAUSSEN: I do have my reservations on Boebert. Although we've already got to see her perform, she does seem to represent the people. However, she can be a little over the top.

KIM: And that's one of the main dynamics. A lot of the candidates tick off the same policy boxes for Republican voters in the district - you know, border security, the economy, public safety. So it's become a lot about their political style, you know what type of Congress member they'll be. And I talked with a lot of voters who want a fighter, like, a la Boebert and a lot of voters who want someone who knows how to compromise and get things done. And that's how a lot of her opponents in the primary are defining themselves - you know, more statesmanlike and saying they won't embarrass the district.

SHAPIRO: But she's got a lot of opponents, and if they have similar policy proposals, similar views on issues, how are they trying to set themselves apart besides demeanor, which you mentioned?

KIM: That's a tough thing because most likely, the anti-Boebert votes will get divided among the five other candidates. And they've been hitting Boebert hard on her behavior in Congress, her lack of bills signed into law, you know, the fact that she moved. One opponent says, unlike Boebert, she's running for the district, not from a district.

SHAPIRO: Ouch.

KIM: Yeah. But this race is Boebert's to lose. You know, she's maybe running in a new district, but she's still an incumbent. She came in with a lot more campaign cash and a lot of name recognition. You know, that cuts both ways, but still - and she's been running ads on TV, touting her endorsement from Donald Trump. You know, her close call in the 3rd and the number of challengers show that Boebert is vulnerable. But I just don't think she'll be as vulnerable in this much more Republican district than her current one. So if she wins, I'd expect her sort of firebrand politics to be back on full display.

SHAPIRO: Caitlyn Kim of Colorado Public Radio. Thank you.

KIM: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF KAYTRANADA'S "WEIGHT OFF (FEAT. BADBADNOTGOOD)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Caitlyn Kim