O’Rourke narrowly lost his 2018 bid for a U.S. Senate seat to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a fact that Trump highlighted to the assembled crowd.
“We are all challenged by a young man who lost an election to Ted Cruz,” Trump said to cheers from supporters.
Trump also boasted that what he claimed was his 35,000-strong crowd dwarfed the turn-out at O’Rourke’s event. He said “200 people, 300 people” showed up at O’Rourke’s rally, before revising his estimate to “about 15 people” a little later in his speech.
In fact, several thousand people attended O’Rourke’s rally, while the El Paso County Coliseum where Trump held his rally has a capacity of 6,500, authorities told the El Paso Times.
O’Rourke is tipped as a potential contender for the 2020 presidential elections, but Trump advised the former congressman to shelve any presidential ambitions, saying the 46-year-old has very little going for him “except he’s got a great first name.”
Trump also used the rally to make his case for a border wall that he said will protect Texans from criminals, drug dealers and a “tremendous onslaught” of migrant caravans.
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His speech came shortly after O’Rourke accused the president of lying about his hometown of El Paso by saying it was a very dangerous place before it had a border fence.
“Here is one of the safest cities in the United States of America, safe not because of walls but in spite of walls,” O’Rourke told supporters.
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Indeed, El Paso’s Republican mayor Dee Margo said that the city was safe for years before the wall was built.
“We were significantly low on crime to begin with and always have been,” Margo told Fox News.
Prior to his speech, O’Rourke joined a march with thousands of people demonstrating against Trump’s border wall.
As Trump and O’Rourke sparred in El Paso, congressional officials in Washington said they reached a tentative deal on border security funding to avert another partial government shutdown.
An aide said that the deal did not include the $5.7 billion that Trump is demanding for the border wall, however.
Trump didn’t bring up the deal during his El Paso rally.
— With files from Reuters