The burning river. The LeBron James saga, apparently heating up again, surely only to crush Cavs fans' hopes. Ten-cent beer night. 30 Rock's mockery. It isn't often that Cleveland gets good news, but Tuesday is an exception: The Republican Party is set to name the city as the host to the 2016 Republican National Convention.
By the time of the announcement, the Mistake on the Lake already looked like a shoo-in. It had already bested cities like Las Vegas (is it really a good idea to have a political convention in a place famous for vice?) and cross-state rival Cincinnati. The other finalist was Dallas, which pundits argued was too closely associated with unpopular former President George W. Bush, and which forecasters pointed out was hellishly hot in the middle of the summer.
Rest assured, Northeast Ohioans hear the groans of operatives and reporters who aren't pleased about their travel plans in summer 2016—and rest assured, we don't care. (I grew up in Akron, about 45 minutes south of Cleveland.) No one makes fun of Cleveland like Cleveland does, as in this classic 1970s t-shirt, and anyway, there's a good restaurant scene, a great art museum, and a world-class orchestra.
But Cleveland is an interesting and counterintuitive pick for a variety of non-snarky political reasons. Most importantly, it's the anchor of the state's liberal, union-friendly, northeastern corner, as you can see in the county-by-county map of the 2004 presidential election below at left. George W. Bush won the state, but Cuyahoga County, Cleveland's home, and surrounding cities went strongly for John Kerry. (Cleveland is marked with a black dot.) Since 10 percent of the state's population is in Cuyahoga County, Bush only won the state by about 2 percent, despite carrying so many counties.
The trend continued in the last two elections. Barack Obama won about 69 percent of the Cuyahoga County vote in both campaigns, and in fact increased his margin slightly in 2012, on his way to winning the Buckeye State twice. (As the map on the right shows, Obama didn't expand the map much; he just increased turnout in strongholds like the northeast.) The last Republican to serve as mayor of Cleveland was George Voinovich, who left office in 1989 and went on to serve as governor and U.S. senator. In these respects, Cincinnati, which has a Democratic mayor but is in a more conservative part of the state and close to Speaker John Boehner's home district, might have made more sense.