EL PASO, Texas – Thousands of people are expecting to protest Monday against President Donald Trump's demands for a boundary wall and his insistence that this overwhelmingly democratic city is the best place to defend this.
The protests put a clash between Trump and a potential opponent in 2020: Democrat Beto O & # 39; Rourke, a born and exalted El Pasoan who speaks during the protest that was set up as a counterprogramming of the Monday evening meeting of the president in the city.
O & # 39; Rourke insisted on Monday that his appearance at the protest was not a personal challenge for Trump and instead was meant to support the more than 50 community groups that organized the march.
"I think he's here in an attempt to use this community as a support to make his plea for the boundary wall," Rourke told the reporters during a telephone conversation.
The competitive protest clearly received the attention of the president.
"We have a row that is already very long," Trump said before leaving Washington for El Paso. "I mean, you see what's going on, and I understand our competitor has a rule, but it's a small, small rule, of course they sound like they have more people than we do. . "
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Beto O & # 39; Rourke lost his bid for the US Senate last year.
It is rare that Trump organizes rallies in a strong democratic area. About 74 percent of voters in El Paso County voted for O & # 39; Rourke during an interim election that saw a turnout.
Rourke's attempt to dismiss the Republican Senate Ted Cruz ended in defeat, but drastically changed Texas politics by spurring a rise in turnout along the border and reducing the Republican profit margin in a significant race across the state to less than 3 percentage points. His ability to get new voters to the ballot box and surpass his opponent without accepting PAC money encouraged enthusiasm for a presidential run even before the race in the US Senate had ended. He recently said that he would decide on a presidential bid later this month.
But with a few public appearances, he remained largely out of the limelight until Trump turned his sights on El Paso.
Trump quoted El Paso last week in his State of the Union speech as proof of the need for funding on the boundary wall, and inaccurately claimed that the city was among the most violent in the country until the federal government began to shield it from its Mexican neighbor of Ciudad Juárez. (In fact, the decline of violent crime in the city from before the wall.)
Trump is expected to make further exaggerations on Monday night in the hope of getting support for $ 5.7 billion to build a boundary wall. His impasse with the Congress on funding led to the recent 35-day partial closure by the government.
O & # 39; Rourke, officials of El Paso and community leaders will try to present the city as they know it.
"I'm going to follow the leadership of the community …. Nothing less and nothing more," said Rourke.
This article has been updated with additional comments from President Trump.