Beto O'Rourke

Candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks at the College of William and Mary this spring.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke will make campaign stops in Virginia this week, including in Blacksburg and Bland County, making him the first 2020 presidential candidate to visit Southwest Virginia.

O’Rourke will stop in Blacksburg and Bland County on Friday and Charlottesville on Saturday as part of an effort to “encourage Americans to connect the dots on how [President Donald] Trump’s recklessness and racism is harming the American people,” according to an announcement from his campaign.

Blacksburg and Charlottesville are both college towns, and Charlottesville was the site of a deadly 2017 white supremacist rally. O’Rourke visited Charlottesville in April to speak to a crowd at the University of Virginia.

O’Rourke will host a town hall at Virginia Tech at the Hancock Auditorium. Doors open at 4 p.m.

He is kicking off the day in Bland County, one of the reddest localities in Virginia. The county along the West Virginia border voted the most strongly for Trump — 82.3% — in Virginia in 2016. His meeting with Democrats there will be closed to the public.

O’Rourke is likely the first presidential candidate to ever make a campaign stop in Bland County. Democrats running for statewide office in Virginia often don’t make trips there to campaign.

While it’s rare for a Democratic candidate to go to Bland County, the idea is not off-base for O’Rourke. When he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last year, his decision to campaign in every county — no matter how deeply red — marked a major divergence from the political playbook used by Texas Democrats who focus their efforts on a handful of urban counties.

This is the fourth visit to Virginia by O’Rourke, who attended a boarding school in Madison County.

O’Rourke is returning to Virginia for the first time since a shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead at a Walmart. Since that tragedy summoned him home, he has returned to the campaign trail focused on trying to hold Trump accountable for the mass shooting in Texas by criticizing the president’s incendiary language about Mexicans and people of color.

Joe Biden, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, spoke at a fundraiser in Richmond on Tuesday. Biden has said the events that transpired in Charlottesville and Trump’s subsequent comments on “very fine people on both sides” about the violent clashes motivated him to run for president.

Two polls released Wednesday from USA TODAY/Suffolk University and Quinnipiac University show Joe Biden more than a dozen points ahead of his nearest rivals in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren came in second place in both polls, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. O’Rourke has been polling near the bottom.

A Roanoke College poll released Monday found that more than half of potential Virginia voters — 53% — said they disapproved of Trump’s performance, while 27% said they approved.

Virginia’s presidential primary will be March 3.

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