As President Donald Trump and former congressman Beto O’Rourke held competing rallies Monday on the divisive issue of immigration in El Paso, Texas, the burning question afterward was not one of policy but of who drew the bigger crowd.
The answer was not clear, with no official count at either O’Rourke’s “March for Truth” or the president’s “Make America Great Again” rally at the El Paso County Coliseum. The president claimed that he drew 35,000 people to his first rally of 2019 but lacked hard evidence.
Trump thanked the El Paso Fire Department for securing 10,000 people inside the coliseum, with “tens of thousands” watching outside. The fire department doused Trump’s claims in cold water, explaining no extra accommodations had been made at the venue.
According to an El Paso Fire Department spokesperson, speaking to the El Paso Times, 6,500 people were inside the coliseum during the rally. The news outlet reported that several thousand watched the president speak on screens outside.
According to MSNBC correspondent Garrett Haake, who gathered and tweeted estimates, the president’s supporters in attendance at the rally could have numbered as many as 18,500. Haake gave the tally of 6,500 individuals inside the arena, as per the fire department, and between 10,000 to 12,000 outside, via NBC News reporter Ali Vitali.
In terms of crowd size, this might give the edge to Trump.
Haake said that according to organizers, roughly 7,000 people were at O’Rourke’s competing rally, which was backed by groups such as Border Network for Human Rights and Women’s March El Paso.
Bloomberg’s White House correspondent quoted an El Paso Police Department estimate that was considerably higher. Jennifer Epstein tweeted that between 10,000 and 15,000 had attended the anti-wall protest.
The president, who has placed great stock in his ability to draw large crowds at rallies, seemed unimpressed by O’Rourke’s decision to back the counter-march. The Democratic politician, who gave up his congressional seat for an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2018, is considering a 2020 presidential run.
“A young man who’s got very little going for himself except he’s got a great first name. He challenged us. We have, say, 35,000 people tonight, and he has, say, 200 people, 300 people,” Trump said at his rally in El Paso. “Not too good. In fact, what I would do, that may be the end of his presidential bid.”
Trump said the media would fail to acknowledge that he had the larger rally, The Hill reported. “They will say Beto O’Rourke—that’s his last name, right, O’Rourke?—had a wonderful rally of about 15 people” Trump said.