Cities are second nature to Donald Trump, who made his fortune, built his name, and sharpened both his style and his elbows in the glittering shark tank of New York business and society.
But as Trump arrives in Cleveland to claim the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, he inherits a party that has been almost completely routed from urban America—and has increasingly defined itself in opposition to cosmopolitan values. In most states, the GOP has established a commanding advantage up and down the ballot in the areas outside of the urban centers. But the Republicans converging this weekend on Cleveland can’t capture the biggest prize—the White House—without cracking the largest cities and inner suburbs.
The Republican choice to gather in Cleveland at all testifies to their challenge. Since 2000, no Republican presidential nominee has carried more than one-third of the vote in Cuyahoga County, which centers on the city.
Ordinarily a party might hesitate about convening so deep in the other side’s terrain. But Republicans now have a foothold in very few cities large enough to host a convention. Not long ago, reform-oriented Republicans with business pedigrees won mayoral races in New York (Michael Bloomberg) and Los Angeles (Richard Riordan). Now the Ballotpedia website reports that Republicans hold the mayoral office in just three of the nation’s 26 largest cities, and 13 of the top 50. The largest cities with Republican mayors are San Diego and Jacksonville; after that, the list quickly descends to Ft. Worth, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, and Fresno.