WASHINGTON -- When Lauren Boebert launched her Republican primary campaign against Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton back in December, she was asked who she considered her actual opponent: Tipton or New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
"I'm absolutely running against her," Boebert said, according to a clip of the interview with Denver's KUSA-TV. She later added, "I am ready to be the one that steps up for conservative values and takes on AOC."
The gun rights activist didn't mention the liberal congresswoman by name in her statement after she defeated Tipton in an upset primary victory Tuesday. She did, however, reference taking on "left-wing lunatics" in Congress.
"There weren't that many Republicans in her district who were really angry at Tipton," said Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver. "She was trying to stir up their anger by directing it at Ocasio-Cortez and other liberal leaders on the Democratic side and (saying), 'If you want to go after these boogeymen, I'm the best person to do it.'"
Some Colorado Republican strategists said Boebert's decision to highlight Ocasio-Cortez and other liberal freshmen who are part the so-called squad helped her defeat Tipton handily. But she was also helped by a surge in voter turnout and by an incumbent who didn't see a competitive race coming.
Some Republicans raised concerns that the political newcomer, who has been associated with an internet conspiracy theory, could put the sprawling 3rd District in western Colorado in play this fall.
"When there's no longer a 10-year incumbent who has a pretty good cash on hand in the bank, you take that incumbent out of the picture and it totally changes the dynamics of the general election," former Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams said.
David Flaherty, a GOP pollster in Colorado who was not involved in the primary, said Boebert's victory was "a clear demonstration of what the Republican Party base wants."
"They want the anti-AOC, as Ms. Boebert campaigned on," Flaherty said. "They want unfettered, unapologetic allegiance to the president, and she clearly demonstrated that."
Boebert tied Tipton to the squad in her closing television ad of the race, showing a composed image of Tipton alongside Ocasio-Cortez and Democrats Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts. The ad knocked Tipton for co-sponsoring a coronavirus relief bill that would provide funds for local governments. Tipton is one of three Republicans co-sponsoring the bill, introduced by Colorado Democrat Rep. Joe Neguse.