PUEBLO WEST, Colo. — It was a Donald Trump rally, in miniature.
About 200 people, many waving flags and some with open-carry sidearms tucked into holsters or the back of their jeans, joined a “Freedom Cruise” caravan earlier this month that wound through the streets of Pueblo West, a Democratic stronghold in southern Colorado, to cheer on GOP House candidate Lauren Boebert, the favorite to win the race to represent nearly half of Colorado’s landmass in Congress.
Sporting a Glock strapped to her hip, the unabashed, social media-savvy and all-in-for-Donald-Trump businesswoman has electrified the race since pulling off the upset of the summer by soundly defeating five-term GOP Rep. Scott Tipton, who on primary day had President Trump’s endorsement in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District and was an honorary co-chair of Trump’s reelection campaign in the state.
In her first run for public office, Boebert’s frequent demonization of Democrats as gun snatchers and job killers who are using the coronavirus pandemic to expand government at the expense of individual liberties resonates widely in a district that is the size of Pennsylvania and, in many ways, reflects the nation’s political divides.
“Scott Tipton was a good guy, but he just wasn’t out there in people’s faces. She was out there,” said Tom Ready, 76, a retired dentist who sits on the Pueblo County GOP executive committee. “She’s challenged the gun grabbers of the Democratic Party.”
And her lack of political experience?
“She’ll learn fast. Big deal. I’m tired of career politicians telling us how to live,” Ready said.
Two of the county’s largest cities, Grand Junction and Pueblo, are traditional Republican and Democratic strongholds, respectively. Most of its 29 counties depend heavily on agriculture. Billions are spent on tourism in glitzy Aspen, Steamboat Springs and other resort towns. Public lands advocates clash with an oil, gas and coal industry that employs thousands.
The evening in a Pueblo West park was key to Boebert’s two-pronged strategy to win the mostly rural district: She is traveling thousands of miles to put herself before groups of voters and also is mounting an aggressive social media campaign that has won over national Republicans, including the president, by echoing Trump’s own tweets on socialism, unrest in Democrat-led cities and reopening under the pandemic.
“Look at me. I am the American dream,” the 33-year-old Boebert told the crowd. She says her family grew up in poverty, dependent on government welfare, until a fire was lit with her first paycheck from a western Colorado McDonald’s that led to her owning the Shooters Grill restaurant in Rifle.
“I went from a girl standing in line for government cheese to receiving an invitation to see the president of the United States,” Boebert said to cheers, having attended Trump’s White House acceptance of his renomination.
Boebert’s Democratic opponent is Diane Mitsch Bush, a retired sociology professor, former state lawmaker and county commissioner from the trendy ski town of Steamboat Springs who is making her second run for the seat.
Mitsch Bush wants