The Democrats' chance of flipping Colorado's 3rd Congressional District increased slightly following conservative restaurant owner Lauren Boebert's surprise primary win over U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in Tuesday's Republican primary, a national election forecaster said Thursday.
The Cook Political Report's David Wasserman moved the district from a "Solid Republican" rating to "Likely Republican" after Boebert, a gun-rights activist and strong supporter of President Donald Trump, toppled the five-term incumbent, though Wasserman noted that the 33-year-old political novice has the potential to break out as a "new national GOP star" and hold on to the largely rural seat.
Boebert faces former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a 70-year-old Steamboat Springs Democrat and retired sociology professor who lost a bid to unseat Tipton in the last election.
National Democrats, who have been keeping an eye on the seat but had yet to commit resources to it, immediately seized on Boebert's win, calling on the National Republican Congressional Committee to "immediately disavow Lauren Boebert and her extremist, dangerous conspiracy theories."
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was referring to approving remarks Boebert made in May to the host of an obscure online interview show who asked Boebert what she thought about the QAnon conspiracy theory, an elaborate set of allegations about "Deep State" efforts to thwart Trump and a child sex trafficking ring involving leading Democrats and Hollywood celebrities.
"That's more my mom's thing — she's a little fringe," Boebert said before adding, "It it's real, then it could be really great for our country."
Boebert told Colorado Politics she only had a "glancing acquaintance" with the theory and doesn't subscribe to its beliefs.
Wasserman said it's "unclear that many 3rd CD voters understand what QAnon is or hold it against her. In fact, the more Democrats and voices in Denver or Boulder mock Boebert, the faster she'll be able to consolidate GOP support in the district."
The liberal Mitsch Bush, who outspent Tipton in 2018 only to lose by 8 percentage points, could be a "bigger obstacle for Democrats," the political prognosticator said.
"With a five-year voting record in the statehouse, she's easy to caricature as a liberal academic," he said, which is exactly what Tipton and his Republican allies did last time.
While conservative Democrats Ben Nighthorse Campbell — who later switched to become a Republican — and John Salazar represented the district for a total of four terms in the last three decades, the 3rd District leans strongly Republican. Trump won the district by 12 percentage points in 2016, so it'll be an uphill climb for Democrats. But with Colorado's six other congressional seats safely in the hands of incumbents, it could be a focus for both parties.
The 3rd CD covers most of the Western Slope, Pueblo County and the San Luis Valley.