Why Lauren Boebert will probably win her primary — and Jamaal Bowman will probably lose his

Why Lauren Boebert will probably win her primary — and Jamaal Bowman will probably lose his

On the surface, Lauren Boebert and Jamaal Bowman could not be more different members of Congress. One is a white ultra-MAGA devotee of Donald Trump and a high school dropout who earned notoriety thanks to running a restaurant where the waitresses all carried firearms. The other is a Black former middle school principal who represents the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. While Bowman seems to care deeply about moving the Democratic Party’s policy significantly to the left, Boebert’s tenure in Congress seems devoid of any real substance, absent being Trump’s fan — although it’s clear she’d be happy to see her own party move even further to the right.

But they came to Washington in similar manners. Boebert beat a placeholder incumbent congressman in Colorado’s third district in 2020 and Bowman pulled off a stunner when he beat the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Since then, both hoped to shake up the dynamics of their party to make them adhere closer to their own ideologies. Boebert — alongside Representative Matt Gaetz — led the charge against making Kevin McCarthy speaker in January of last year, though she ultimately voted against Gaetz’s motion to vacate that removed McCarthy.

Bowman, a member of the progressive Squad, was one of only six Democrats to oppose the bipartisan infrastructure bill and is one of the most vocal supporters of a ceasefire in Gaza.

They’ve also both attracted some less-than-desirable headlines. Many roundly mocked Boebert recently after she was thrown out of a theater during a live musical performance of Beetlejuice for vaping and inappropriately touching her date. Bowman received unwanted attention when, during a vote to keep the government open, he pulled the fire alarm in his House office building, for which House Republicans later censured him.

But this week, the two found themselves in the political fight for their lives. After narrowly winning re-election in 2022, Boebert stands a good chance of winning after running in a different district. Conversely, Bowman has faced an onslaught of more than $14 million from a pro-Israel campaign group, making his the most expensive congressional primary in US history.

So why are these two members — both from the most ideological camps in their parties — stand to face such different fates?

For one, there is the simple matter of opponents. Bowman has the misfortune of facing only one opponent, Westchester County Executive George Latimer. This has allowed his critics to coalesce around him. Not only has the American Israel Public Affairs Committee gotten behind Latimer, but so has Hillary Clinton, who lives in Westchester County.

Even Bowman’s former colleague Mondaire Jones, an ex-congressman who came to DC in the same year as him, endorsed Latimer — since as he is running for another congressional seat in Westchester County against incumbent Republican Representative Mike Lawler.

By contrast, Boebert faces more of a split field. After she only won re-election in the third district by 546 votes last time around, Boebert jumped to the fourth district, which is far more conservative, when Representative Ken Buck announced he would retire. The race already had multiple candidates by the time Boebert jumped in. A split field meant that a clear anti-Boebert candidate did not exist for Republicans to take her out, even though plenty of people do not like her.

Another major difference is that Boebert does not have a clear record of crossing the leader of her party. Boebert’s time in Congress only overlapped with Trump’s presidency for 17 days, yet she stood by him on the two most important votes — one against impeachment, and one opposing the certification of the 2020 presidential election results even after the January 6 riot.

Similarly, much of the Republican base identifies as conservative, according to a Gallup poll from 2022. And Boebert has maintained her conservative credentials throughout her time in the House since Trump left, continuing to antagonize leadership and going up to New York to support Trump during his criminal trial.

Bowman, in contrast, does have a record of opposing the leader of his party. A large swath of the Democrats does not like that he has voted against Biden on big-ticket legislation such as the infrastructure bill or providing more aid to Israel.

Strangely enough, the dynamics in Bowman’s primary are the reverse of the normal Democratic primary dynamics; historically, Black and Latino Democrats tend to be more right-leaning than their white counterparts. But Bowman will need to have maximized turnout in the Bronx to counteract the more moderate and affluent neighborhoods outside of New York City.

This would also explain partially why fellow Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the Bronx and Queens, does not face as strong of a challenge in her own race — and why Summer Lee, who represented large parts of Pittsburgh, survived her primary challenge in April.

Of course, nothing is set in stone. Boebert might yet come up short and Bowman might pull off a miracle. But the fact that we feel confident enough to make these predictions now says as much about their parties as it does them.