According to Dave Williams, the leader of Colorado’s Republican Party, what happens at a theatrical production of Beetlejuice at the Buell Theater stays there … and won’t affect the next election cycle.
Last week, Williams spoke on KVOR radio about Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s (R-CO) scandalous night out at a live performance of Beetlejuice in September, at which she vaped in the audience, boisterously sang and danced along to the music, and groped her partner.
To cap off the night’s festivities, Boebert was escorted out of the performance by venue staff as she flipped off security. Boebert was at first defiant about her behavior, but after close-up images emerged of her vaping and groping, she was more contrite and said she fell short of her values that night and that her actions were the result of her “public and difficult divorce.”
When prompted by the right-wing KVOR host Richard Randall, Williams disagreed with the sentiment that the congresswoman’s behavior would negatively impact her when she is up for reelection in 2024.
“I think as unpleasant as that was and controversial as it was, I think people are willing to give her another chance,” said Williams, before pivoting toward criticizing the current administration.
“Come 2024, given enough distance from that event, people are going to be focused on these terrible economic numbers we’re seeing and Bidenomics being a failure,” said Williams.
On KNUS, another right-wing radio station, George Brauchler — best known for losing his case to have the Aurora Theater shooter put to death — didn’t share Williams’ confidence in Boebert’s ability to shake off the Beetlejuice scandal.
“You know, the thing I’m worried about here is, can she win the general?” said Brauchler on air Dec. 4 after the ultra-conservative Colorado Springs Gazette endorsed Boebert’s primary opponent, Jeff Hurd, citing in part Boebert’s behavior during Beetlejuice.
So how does one night of being possessed with the rapture of a Beetlejuice performance affect a political candidate? The Colorado Times Recorder asked two professors of political science at Colorado State University Pueblo (which is located within Boebert’s district) about the precedent for such a controversy and whether it would impact Boebert in 2024.
“I think in our modern era of polarization, scandals have less of an effect than they used to,” said Ryan Strickler, associate professor of political science.
Joel W. Johnson, professor of political science, offered a similar outlook: “My thinking is that especially for someone like Boebert, a scandal like this will not have a huge impact and that it’s relatively small scale and that the type of politician that she is, most of her supporters, will probably be undeterred by this.”
However, Strickler specified that the timing of a political controversy is crucial to its long-term ramifications. “There is a lot of good research that shows there’s a time element to all this. So if a scandal occurs right before a reelection it’s more impactful than right now.”
Both academics were clear that it was hard to match an exact precedent for Boebert’s lewd behavior at a theater performance.
“It seemed to have dented Boebert’s support in a way that other types of prior news stories have not,” said Johnson. “It just seems to have gotten more attention and more traction, and there have been more people who have expressed their distaste for her in the wake of this.”
Strickler and Johnson also agreed that this type of behavior seems to have reached a point of acceptability in the Republican Party, each professor citing former President Trump’s ability to maintain the support of his base despite producing countless controversies during his candidacy and presidency.
Beetlejuice Scandal “Could Make the Difference”
Yet, despite viewing the Beetlejuice incident as most likely not affecting Boebert’s chances of winning reelection, each offered a possible way in which it could.
Johnson cited the centrist voters in Boebert’s district (which covers most of the Western Slope and includes Grand Junction, Durango, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs), wondering if this event could be disruptive for a candidate who was reelected to her seat in 2022 by around 500 votes.
“It was already looking like she’s going to have a very tough race in 2024. And yeah, this could be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Johnson. “This could make the difference because it’s so close.”
Strickler focused on Boebert’s public image, noting that the incident was striking because it didn’t align with her conservative, anti-elite, pro-family persona. Accordingly, voters who are on the margins of the party or Boebert’s platform could respond negatively to “a scandal where she seems like she’s behaving as sort of like this out-of-touch elite,” as Strickler framed it.
When asked whether there was any way Boebert’s team could attempt to spin the controversy as a liberal attack on her character, neither thought such a move was a plausible course of action. Boebert appears to have taken this attack initially, stating on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “It’s true, I did thoroughly enjoy the AMAZING Beetlejuice at the Buell Theatre and I plead guilty to laughing and singing too loud!” Now Boebert mostly avoids talking about the incident.