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Beto vs. Trump: Who Had the Bigger Crowd?

Newsweek logo Newsweek 2/12/2019 Callum Paton

Slideshow by Business Insider

As President Donald Trump and former congressman Beto O’Rourke went head-to-head on the divisive issue of immigration in El Paso on Monday, the burning question following their competing rallies was not one of policy but rather who drew the largest crowd.

The answer is not clear, with no official count at either O’Rourke’s “March for Truth” or the president’s rally at the El Paso County Coliseum. It does seem unlikely that the president’s claim he was able to draw 35,000 people to his first rally of 2019 is true.

Trump thanked the El Paso Fire Department for securing 10,000 people inside with “tens of thousands” watching outside. The fire department itself doused Trump’s claims in cold water, explaining no extra accommodations had to be made at the venue.

According to an El Paso Fire Department spokesperson, speaking to the El Paso Times, 6,500 individuals were inside the coliseum during the rally. The Times reported that several thousand were watching 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 high as 18,500. Haake‏ gave the tally of 6,500 individuals inside the arena, as per the fire department, and between 10,000 and 12,000 outside, via NBC News reporter Ali Vitali. This may give the edge in terms of crowd size to Trump.

Haake‏ said 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 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, has publicly considered a run at the presidency in 2020.

“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 went on to claim the media would fail to acknowledge his was 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.

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