In Colorado, a close midterm race shows cracks in Trump’s MAGA movement: experts

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Recapping results from U.S. midterm elections
WATCH: Recapping results from U.S. midterm elections – Nov 9, 2022

A tighter-than-expected election race in Colorado is indicative that Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement may not have as tight a grip on Republicans as expected, experts say.

Lauren Boebert, an incumbent Republican congresswoman for Colorado, is currently leading Democrat Adam Frisch by about 1,000 votes as of Thursday evening with 98 per cent of polls reporting — an upset in a historically Republican district. A recount is automatic in the state if the difference in votes is 0.5 per cent or less of the leader’s total votes, or about 800 votes.

For Canadians, Boebert may be most familiar for calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “tyrant” and saying Canada needs to be “liberated” along with Ukraine in February 2022, as the “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations began in Ottawa.

Her rise came after a video of her confronting Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke in Aurora, Colo., over limits on gun ownership went viral.

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She has since defined herself as an ardent Trump supporter and was one of the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in January 2021, shortly after the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.

Jayson Boebert puts his arms around his wife, Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, as they pray during an Election night party in Grand Junction, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP

University of Toronto political science professor Renan Levine told Global News that Boebert is in the same league as Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, in terms of representing the more extreme, conspiracy-tinged elements of the Republican Party.

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A key difference, he said, is Greene has handily won her re-election against her Democratic challenger, while Boebert is neck-in-neck with hers despite the Colorado Democrat having much less funding than Greene’s challenger.

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Frisch served in the Aspen City Council from 2011 to 2019 and has defined himself as a moderate Democrat who is interested in resource extraction in the state.

“There are some cracks in the MAGA wall,” Levine said.

While it could be several more days before a final winner is clear in the tight race, Levine said the narrow margin of victory combined with the defeats of Trump-backed candidates in the midterms, including Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania to John Fetterman, or Herschel Walker trailing in Georgia, show that a Trump endorsement is not the seal of approval that it might have appeared to be.

Some voters, he added, are looking for more political experience.

While Trump is still hugely influential in the Republican Party, the five per cent or so within the party that are voting against his candidates can make a difference in results, Levine said.

“Not all Republicans are hardcore MAGA at this point,” he added.

Click to play video: 'Early U.S. midterms results: Republican ‘red wave’ recedes'
Early U.S. midterms results: Republican ‘red wave’ recedes

To Rob Preuhs, a professor and chair of the political science department at Metropolitan State University of Denver, the tight race shows voter fatigue over Trump-style rhetoric and governing via social media rather than “rolling up the sleeves to work in Congress.”

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“It’s much tighter than anyone had expected,” he said.

While Boebert may still squeak by with a win, both Pruehs and Levine say her political opponents will smell blood in the water and go after her in subsequent elections, as her vulnerability has been shown.

That might mean toned-down rhetoric from Boebert going forward and more of a focus on constituent affairs — or, according to Pruehs, the possibility of election denial.

“There is a potential for that,” he said.

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