The coronavirus is splitting America in two

In almost every state, the outbreak is spreading much more heavily in the largest metropolitan centers than in less densely populated areas, even when the figures are adjusted on a per capita basis, according to a new analysis by the economist Jed Kolko provided exclusively to The Atlantic.

That pattern threatens to exacerbate one of Trump’s most conspicuous political vulnerabilities: his historical weakness in big metropolitan areas that are full of the minority and white-collar white voters most skeptical of him. From the Virginia governor’s race in 2017, to a sweep of suburban House districts in 2018, to the upset victory in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race last year, Democrats have consistently posted significant gains in these areas under Trump. The pattern continued in the unexpected Democratic victory this week in a highly contested state Supreme Court election in Wisconsin, a state that could be the tipping point in the 2020 presidential race.

The question for Trump this fall will be whether he can offset that weakness by matching or building on his dominant advantage in exurban, small-town, and rural communities. In Wisconsin this week, the GOP lost ground with those voters too, but by and large, polling still shows Trump holding a strong position among them. And because most rural communities are facing fewer cases of the disease so far, they may be much more receptive than big-city leaders and voters to Trump’s calls to reopen the economy as quickly as possible.

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