“It’s not the same Republican Party,” said Representative Donald McEachin of Virginia. “Trump chased off a lot of moderate Republicans, so it’s a much smaller party.”
It is difficult to overstate the extent of the Republican Party’s political decline in big-metro America. While Republicans have long been more aligned with rural, conservative voters than with urban constituencies, the pre-Trump G.O.P. made a point of recruiting serious candidates even in Democratic strongholds like New York City and California. The party pulled off upset victories with some frequency by attacking Democrats on seemingly intractable problems like violent crime, high taxes and wasteful spending.
And Republicans were rewarded with a crop of leaders who helped persuade not just their constituents but the country as a whole that their party was capable of mastering the toughest jobs in government. At the turn of the 21st century, Republican mayors governed cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Diego, and a motorist could drive from Pittsburgh to Provincetown, Mass., without entering a state helmed by a Democratic governor.
Since then, said Joseph J. Lhota, the former M.T.A. chairman who was the Republican nominee for mayor of New York in 2013, the G.O.P. had “completely disappeared” as a force in metro politics.
“It’s not sustainable. It’s just not,” Mr. Lhota said. “There was a time when Republicans had a seat at the table when people talked about laboratories of democracy, and there’s no better place for laboratories of democracy than large cities and large states.”
Lanhee Chen, a former policy adviser to Mitt Romney, said it was obviously “not healthy” for Republicans to write off so many important parts of the country. Mr. Chen, who is based in California, is weighing a campaign for state controller in 2022.
“Competing, and competing to win in the marketplace of ideas, is an important thing for the party to do in Texas and Missouri, of course, but also in California and New York,” Mr. Chen said.