AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — President Donald Trump will travel to El Paso on Monday to hold a rally and make his case for building his border wall. But his visit could also boost Beto O’Rourke, as the former Congressman weighs a possible Presidential campaign.
O’Rourke plans to speak at a rally across the street from the President’s event. He’ll also take part in a Monday news conference with human rights activists to denounce what they call the President’s “fixation on a racist and useless border wall.”
President Trump’s visit comes after comments he made during his State of the Union address drew criticism from some border leaders. He said El Paso is an example of why the country needs a border wall.
“The border city of El Paso, Texas used to have extremely high rates of violent crime,” the President said during the televised address. He said that all turned around after the federal government built a border barrier.
“Simply put, walls work and walls save lives,” Trump said as many people in the House chamber stood to applaud.
El Paso’s mayor did not agree with the President’s conclusion.
“Our wall, our fence which I like to refer to it, was established in 2006 by George W. Bush, but not built until 2008,” explained Mayor Dee Margo.
A fact check by the El Paso Times found that FBI reports of violent crime peaked in 1993. By 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by 30-percent. That drop happened before workers started building the border barrier in 2008.
“So we were kind of safe before and safe after,” Margo said.
The response to the President’s focus on El Paso is drawing new attention to Beto O’Rourke. “It’s his stomping grounds,” said Texas Tribune reporter Cassandra Pollock. “That just kinda seems to be adding to the speculation or the fuel that can soon actually be there.”
The speculation is over whether the former Congressman will join the race for the Democratic nomination for President. Oprah Winfrey tried to get a definitive answer from O’Rourke during an interview last week. O’Rourke told her he’s thinking about it, and plans to make a decision before the end of the month.
Some Texas Democrats want O’Rourke on the 2020 ballot, but a little closer to home.
“We are seeing a push by Texas Democrats to get him to run for the Texas Senate again against John Cornyn instead of president,” politics reporter Phil Prazan said on Sunday’s State of Texas politics program. “Texas Democrats look at O’Rourke as the Lebron James on their team… they want him in Texas as opposed to all over the country.”