Five things to watch for in Trump's Phoenix speech

President Trump will hold a campaign-style rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night that will be must-watch television for a host of reasons.

Trump is expected to use the podium in Phoenix to defend his hard-line approach on immigration and to pressure Congress for more than $1 billion to build the southern border wall that was at the core of his presidential campaign.

This will be Trump’s first public rally since the outpouring of criticism over his response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that led to three deaths.

Local officials are gearing up for a storm of protests at the Phoenix Convention Center, and the city’s mayor asked Trump to reconsider holding the event there.

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Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, announced Monday he’ll skip the speech altogether.

Here are five things to look for at the rally.

Trump versus Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Sasse: RNC help for Roy Moore 'doesn't make any sense' Sasse calls RNC decision to resume support for Moore 'bad' and 'sad' MORE

The feud between Trump and Flake escalated this month with the release of the Arizona Republican’s book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” which warns Republicans that Trump is the antithesis of GOP ideals and that their defense of the president risks ruining the party.

Trump has lashed out with charges that Flake is “toxic,” ineffective and “weak on borders.” And in a move that’s infuriated GOP leaders, the president recently showered praise on Flake’s early 2018 GOP primary challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, leading to speculation that Trump may offer an official endorsement in Phoenix.

“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake,” Trump tweeted last week.

Flake, whose approval ratings stand below 20 percent, says he’s unconcerned with Trump’s attacks, which are likely to continue in Phoenix. But Ward is relishing the boost. Anticipating Trump’s speech, she launched a new ad campaign on Monday warning voters that Flake’s clash with the president is “a huge liability for Arizona.”

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) may also prove an irresistible target for the president given his vote to sink the Senate’s effort to repeal ObamaCare. McCain also hammered Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville.

“There's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry,” McCain tweeted last week. “The President of the United States should say so.” 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Trump recently told Fox News that he’s “seriously considering” pardoning Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., whose aggressive approach to the detention of undocumented immigrants has made him a national voice for the hard-line enforcement policies championed by the president. A massive rally in Phoenix would be just the place to do that.

A federal judge found the 85-year-old Arpaio guilty of contempt of court last month for the “flagrant disregard” of another judge’s 2011 order to stop the racial profiling that came to define Arpaio’s immigrant roundups. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 5, when he faces a maximum of six months in jail.

Arpaio is one of Trump's oldest political allies. The two men supported each other as far back as 2012, when they were two of the most prominent advocates of “birtherism,” the claim that then-President Obama was not born in the United States.

Arpaio’s conviction has become a flashpoint in the largely partisan debate over immigration reform, with both sides watching Trump’s actions closely.  

On Monday, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs (R), one of Trump’s most vocal supporters, urged the president to pardon Arpaio, touting the former sheriff’s long public service record. He accused the Obama administration of conducting “a witch hunt” against him. 

Some Democrats seem to be expecting the pardon, noting that Trump has come under fire from conservatives for the recent ouster of top strategist Stephen Bannon and may use the Phoenix speech to get back into the critics’ good graces. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said Monday that pardoning Arpaio might “placate [Trump’s] xenophobic, racist base.”

A few hours after this story was published, the White House announced Trump would not pardon Arpaio at the rally.

The wall

Trump launched his presidential campaign with an attack on immigrants and a vow to build “a beautiful wall” on the southern border, paid for by Mexico. But his chief domestic promise has smacked into the political realities of Capitol Hill, where GOP leaders, needing Democratic votes to pass spending bills, have failed to get new construction funding to the president’s desk.

The issue was a major sticking point in the fight over a 2017 spending bill, when Democrats successfully yanked new wall funding from the package. But Republicans are under pressure to hold a harder line in the 2018 spending debate — the House has already approved a bill providing $1.6 billion in new wall funding — and Trump will likely use the stage in Phoenix to elevate the issue.

Indeed, in signing the 2017 federal spending bill, a frustrated Trump suggested he’d support “a good ‘shutdown’ in September” in order to secure more Republican priorities.

Race

The Arizona rally comes just as the news cycle is finally moving away from Trump's botched response to Charlottesville, when he said "many sides" were to blame for the violence at the white supremacist rally.

The Phoenix rally is expected to attract large groups of supporters and counterprotesters, however, and has the potential to reopen the discussion depending on what Trump says from the stage — and what happens outside the arena. 

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) wrote a Washington Post op-ed Monday asking Trump to delay his visit.

“America is hurting,” wrote Stanton. “And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline. With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match.”

Trump took a different tone Monday, in a teleprompter-guided speech laying out his Afghanistan strategy.

“When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate,” said Trump. “The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home.”

Afghanistan

Tuesday’s rally comes just a day after the prime-time speech in which Trump outlined the contours of his military strategy in Afghanistan — a design that includes the deployment of new U.S. troops to the embattled region.

The military buildup marks a stark shift for the president, who had been highly critical of prolonging U.S. engagement after 16 years of failing to stabilize the country. On the campaign trail, he won accolades from the “America First” crowd with his promise of quick troop withdrawal, arguing the resources would be better used for domestic projects.

The issue carries a special significance following last week’s departure of Bannon, a fierce nationalist who sought to steer Trump away from aggressive interventions into foreign affairs.

Bannon, who quickly returned to the helm of Breitbart News, has vowed his continued support of the administration. But the site wasted no time Monday lashing out at Trump’s Afghanistan strategy, calling it a “flip flop” and equating his plan to that of former President Obama, a pariah in the eyes of conservative Breitbart readers.

This story was updated at 5:03 p.m.