They Told Him to Change His Name. Now Crowds Are Shouting It. > Dogecointool

They Told Him to Change His Name. Now Crowds Are Shouting It.

“I’m already hearing that he’s at the White House too much,” a prominent Ohio Democrat confided.

“I haven’t been asking to go,” Pureval told me. “You get invited to the White House.”

But the private carping is overcome by the persistent public talk that he is a future president. “I want him in the White House,” Kimberly Ross, 54, told me at a graduation for new firefighters at which Pureval spoke. At a tailgate before a football game at the University of Cincinnati, where the mayor played cornhole with college kids while drinking Bud Light, I met local attorney Scott Kadish. He’s the person who told me he’s “Barack Obama Junior.”

“First time I met him,” he said, “I told everybody, ‘I’m telling you right now: This guy is gonna be president of the United States.’”

Back at the 3-on-3 tourney, surrounded by the sounds of dribbling basketballs, I asked the mayor about the talk of running for president.

“I laugh it off,” he said.

“I think the criticism of me is that I’m a young man in a hurry — that I’m using mayor as some kind of steppingstone — and I genuinely view this as a capstone of my public service career. And so when there’s political risk, I actually lean into it, because the next office — I’m not sure there’ll be one.”

“There is no path,” a person familiar with Pureval’s thinking told me. “Trump won Ohio by more than he won Texas,” this person told me. “The statewide picture’s really hard.”

People who know him hear this and nod.

“If he chooses to run for high office,” Ohio Democratic Party chair Liz Walters told me, “I think he’s got a lot of options.”

“It’s not clear to me what his next step is in terms of national politics,” said Narasimhan of the AAPI Victory Fund. “But I personally think he should be on the list for any major Democratic candidate in probably ’28.”

“Hasn’t Pete Buttigieg sort of created this blueprint?” said Kincaid, the Cincinnati Democratic strategist. “I mean, given that he’s hired Lis Smith, isn’t it obvious that’s the path he’s on?”

“Gonna be a journey,” said Lis Smith.

She was talking about the game. We were inside Paycor Stadium now, our four seats not far from the far end zone, and Joe Burrow, the up-and-comer of a quarterback for the Bengals, had just on their second offensive play of the game thrown an interception that the defender for the Pittsburgh Steelers ran back for a touchdown.

“Need to keep — the highs, the lows — somewhere in the middle,” she said.

“I know,” Pureval said.

Where to from here?

“Only up,” he said, taking a sip from his local Rhinegeist IPA called Truth.

This young mayor and this young team over the past year-plus rose on what felt at times like roughly parallel trajectories. Cincinnati, a very big city when the country was a much smaller country, as Niven, the UC political scientist put it to me, has been slowly growing in population in the past decade for the first time in the better part of a century. The residue of its bygone size makes it feel bigger than it is — the top-flight sports, the cultural heft, even just the building stock and the handsome skyline on the banks of Ohio River. The population of the city proper is still only a hair higher than 300,000, but now the number’s headed in the right direction, and even this modest upward trend makes for a collective psychological lift. And Pureval, Burrow, the rookie-of-the-year wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase — they have been the faces, white, brown and Black, of this reemergence. In the month after Pureval was sworn in, Burrow, Chase and the Bengals won a playoff game, then another, then another, to get the franchise to the Super Bowl for the first time in more than 30 years.

The Bengals are also what brought together Pureval and Smith. They met in Kansas City, en route to the conference championship game when the Bengals were playing the Kansas City Chiefs, through that city’s Black, 38-year-old mayor — Quinton Lucas. “He said,” Pureval recalled, “‘If you don’t mind, my friend Lis is gonna ride with you — she’s a huge Bengals fan.’” The Bengals won, earning their Super Bowl berth, and Pureval saw an early, unexpected opportunity. He called Smith. He wanted help honing a message. “Like this team, our city is young, diverse, ambitious and confident,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “This is not your grandparents’ Cincinnati,” he said on Fox News. Smith accompanied him to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl. He was spotted all over wearing an orange satin jacket he had specially made by the Cincinnati company called BlaCk OWned. On the back in black letters it said MAYOR. Smith and Pureval by now are legitimately friends, and it’s true she’s a Bengals fan — “more of a Bengals fan than an Aftab fan,” he told me — but it’s also true she wasn’t just here for the football. She’s a fan of Pureval’s political potential as well.

So here she was, and here he was, and now in the lurching opening game of this season the Bengals scored a touchdown with no time left to tie the score. The stadium exploded with exhilaration. Smith was so excited she began punching me in the arm. Pureval was so excited he ran up and down rows of seats hugging and high-fiving fans.

“Believe!” he hollered.

“Believe in Cincinnati!”

The only thing left was for the kicker to kick the extra point and the Bengals would win by one. A happy ending. The mayor put his arm around a stranger, and they smiled and they stood still and they watched the kick … miss. Overtime. And overtime dragged on. The Bengals’ kicker missed another field goal. So did the kicker for the Steelers. Even overtime was about to be over.

Pureval looked at me. “I’m not sure what to say about a tie,” he said.

Smith, part superstitious fan, but part political adviser, too, heard what he said and spat out a warning. “Don’t talk about things in the future,” she said.

It was, it turned out, well-founded counsel. Because the Steelers got the ball back toward the end of overtime and pushed quickly down the field, far enough to give their kicker one last chance to win the game. Which he did.

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