President Trump will have some political competition when he speaks tonight in the border city of El Paso TX.
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a likely 2020 presidential candidate and El Paso native, will join a march and rally celebrating the city, then deliver his own speech at the same time as the president’s (7 p.m. Mountain time, 9 Eastern). O’Rourke has said he’ll decide whether to run for president by the end of this month.
It’s unclear how the media will handle the dueling speakers; the New York Times suggested that the TV networks might use a “split screen approach” to show Trump and O’Rourke simultaneously.
This will be Trump’s first rally of the 2020 campaign cycle; there are likely to be dozens more. Mark Knoller of CBS News reports that during his first two years in office, the president appeared at 55 political rallies in 24 states, including Texas.
Noting Trump’s claim that El Paso is a hotbed of criminal violence caused by foreigners crossing from Mexico, O’Rourke tweeted that border barriers (including the one that runs through El Paso) simply don’t work:
“Our government built a border fence in El Paso in 2008, a misguided response to 9/11 (no terrorists have crossed the southern border and attacked this country). It didn’t make us any safer. In fact crime in El Paso increased after [the fence] was built.”
In his speech a short distance from the Rio Grande, the Austin-based Texas Tribune reports, the president is “expected to make an argument for expanded border security — and local and state leaders also expect him to double down on statements they say are flat-out lies about El Paso’s recent history.”
“El Paso has always been safe, long before a wall was constructed,” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) said in a recent campaign email quoted by the Tribune. “the President will … attempt to use our community for a dog and pony show.”