CINCINNATI – Donald Trump doesn’t owe many thanks to this city for his White House win.
Yet, Cincinnati – home to a city and county where more residents voted against him than for him – is where the future president and vice president will launch a 'Thank You’ tour Thursday at U.S. Bank Arena. Cincinnati is the only official stop scheduled on the tour.
Trump did pull off a big win in Ohio on Election Day and he’s following through on a promise to hold rallies in crucial swing states that lifted him to victory. But starting the tour in Hamilton County – where Trump lost by a margin of more than 9 percentage points – is causing some people to scratch their heads.
The county voted far more Democratic than expected and, as a whole, didn’t represent the deep shade of red the rest of the state turned in the election. Voters here have a history of picking presidents, but Hillary Clinton won Hamilton County by a wider margin than any other presidential contender in the last three election cycles.
“If you were going to reward your supporters in Ohio, you certainly would not choose to come right into the heart of Cincinnati,” University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven said. “If you want to get a lot of attention in a place that’s accessible to a lot of supporters, then Cincinnati makes sense.”
By stopping in Cincinnati, Trump is likely to draw supporters from three different states – Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana – all places where swaths of people voted for the GOP president elect. He will also get media coverage from several television markets – from Dayton to Indianapolis – as a result of touching down in the Queen City.
Trump’s decision, then, to pick Cincinnati for his first public event since being elected, is more logistical than symbolic.
“Remember, it’s not Cincinnati – it’s the Tri-State,” said Mark. R Weaver, a Columbus-based Republican media strategist. “You’re affecting coverage in three states. Cincinnati is more than just a city – it’s the Hamilton County suburbs as well as the surrounding counties.”
Roughly two out of three voters in Butler, Warren and Clermont counties – all of which border Hamilton County – backed Trump on Election Day.
Trump has had success packing the house in Cincinnati before. In March, Trump held a rally to a West Chester crowd of about 2,500. A July rally in Sharonville attracted a few thousand, too. But no audience was as big as his visit in October at U.S. Bank Arena, which holds 17,500 people.
He is likely to pique the interest of even more people Thursday as he descends upon the city in the midst of near-daily announcements of who he’s picked to serve on his administration.
A mix of diehard supporters, newfound backers and protestors are expected to show up. Some have taken to Facebook, planning anti-Trump protests outside of the arena Thursday night.
With Cincinnati being mostly Democratic territory, protests could be heavy, said Jared Kamrass, a Democratic political consultant at Rivertown Strategies.
“There’s only four counties in Ohio where he did worse than Mitt Romney – Hamilton and Warren (counties) are two of them,” Kamrass explained. “The fact that this is the first one he’s doing, there will be pretty active protests near the arena.”
Holding his first ‘Thank You’ tour stop here could hold some sentimental value for President-elect Trump. After all, it was Cincinnati where Trump, as a college student along with his father, made his first real estate investment: a 1,200 unit apartment complex called Swifton Village in Bond Hill. In his book, “Trump: The Art of The Deal, he refers to himself as ‘The Cincinnati Kid.’ The apartment complex has since shuddered.
He's often quick to remind crowds of his first gig here when he visits southwest Ohio, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantaiflou said.
“I think Donald Trump is fond of this area, given his business deals here,” Triantafilou said.