Lauren Boebert Shooters Grill

Via Twitter Republican congressional candidate Lauren Boebert discusses her decision to reopen Shooters Grill, her restaurant in Rifle, in defiance of public health orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, in a video posted to Twitter on May 12.

Lauren Boebert’s primary campaign was kind of like the myth about a bumble bee: It wasn’t built to fly.

Bees fly, and the buzz in Colorado politics right now is all about Boebert.

If you look at everything the experts know about running a campaign for Congress, however, you won’t find it in the way she beat Scott Tipton, a five-term incumbent with a veteran team behind him and President Donald Trump’s endorsement.

She won it with no money, no professional staff to speak of. Heck, no clear mandate, unless you count outing the Deep State and sticking up for gun rights.

What she had was energy, savvy and impeccable timing.

When Boebert got in the race, she blew right past Tipton and said she was running against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. During the race, she castigated him for supporting the same coronavirus relief bill as AOC did, which benefited the district.

“I’m absolutely running against her,” Boebert said in her first sit-down with 9News’ Kyle Clark last December. “There is a social narrative that’s taking over our country. There’s a battle for the heart and soul of our country.”

OK, I’m listening.

The diner owner from Rifle was raised in Aurora and Montbello without much to live on and a mom who was a Democrat. She faces Diane Mitsch Bush, a former state legislator and county commissioner from Steamboat Springs.

Mitsch Bush lost to Tipton by 8 points two years ago, but won handily against a moderate businessman in the primary. Boebert hung a 9-point loss on Tipton.

Either way, western Colorado will soon be represented by a woman for the first time .

Boebert walked her talk — a woman, a millennial, a small-business owner, a gun-rights advocate and a mom. She demonstrated a remarkable bit of good timing when she showed up at the Beto O’Rourke rally for president in Aurora to say she defends her small frame and small business with her pistol she intends to keep handy. On the Texan’s plan to ban assault weapons, she declared to a national audience, “Hell no, you’re not.”

Then when Republicans were energized to reopen the economy this spring, Boebert opened her business in defiance of local authorities and Gov. Jared Polis, proving her mettle as a fighter, if not a lawbreaker to boot.

Boebert, like most of the staff at Shooters Grill, wears a sidearm. Her politics is flavored by cups of coffee and countless hours of conversation, not focus groups and Washington spin doctors.

If Boebert is far to the right on guns, government overreach and QAnon conspiracy theories, then it’s worth mentioning that Mitsch Bush backs climate-change controls, single-payer health care, tougher gun laws and an end to oil and gas subsidies.

It might not matter.

The district is changing, but it still leans reliably to the right. “You can’t just show up and win anymore,” said former state Sen. Josh Penry, a native son and a state political strategist.

John Salazar won as a centrist from a farm family, not a Democratic disruptor of the status quo. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, before him, switched to Republican when he reached the U.S. Senate, so he was no liberal.

My friend Dick Wadhams, a man who knows the state’s electoral map better than anyone, I’d argue, said if the 3rd Congressional District swings wide enough to the left to lift Mitsch Bush, Cory Gardner, Trump and every Republican down the ticket to county dog catcher could be spending more time with their family next year.

Tipton had no reason to be concerned, winning reelection handily for a decade. He did nothing to stir up opposition, and he’d been faithful to the president.

Yet, Boebert makes a mistake if she assumes too much that it’s something she did and not the kind of year it is.

There’s evidence of a remarkable wave of frustration building against incumbents. That same mood lifted Trump four years ago: a dismay with the professional politicians.

Tipton was one of three Trump-backed candidates for Congress to fall: incumbent Denver Riggleman in Virginia and Lynda Bennett in North Carolina, who lost to a 24-year-old for a seat formerly held by Trump’s chief of staff.

Here in Colorado, well-regarded Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Singer of Longmont lost in a primary for Boulder County Commission; so did Republican state Sens. Vicki Marble in House District 49 in Larimer County and Ray Scott in his bid for the Mesa County Commission, each to newcomers.

Insights asked Gardner if an anti-incumbent mood keeps him up at night in his race facing the former governor.

“I don’t sense that, but I will tell you John Hickenlooper is probably seen as more of the incumbent than I am,” he said.

If 2020 seems like a political red sky at night, it’s the challenger’s delight. That’s why Joe Biden’s not pumping up the volume on his Obama accomplishments. Campaigning on more of the same sure didn’t help Hillary Clinton.

In politics, my smart campaign-running friends tell me, you have to ride the moment and not assume the moment is about you.

All Boebert has to be now is electable, unless Trump really, really isn’t.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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