Trump plans to visit Detroit during the second Republican Party debate
Former President Donald J. Trump plans to travel to Detroit on the day of the upcoming Republican primary debate, according to two Trump advisers familiar with the plans, inserting himself into the labor dispute between striking autoworkers and the nation’s leading automakers.
The trip, which will include a prime-time speech to current and former union members, is the second straight primary debate that Mr. Trump has skipped to run his counter-platform instead. He sat down for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, which was posted online during the first GOP presidential debate in August.
The decision to go to Michigan just days after the United Auto Workers strike shows the extent to which Trump wants to be seen as ignoring his primary rivals — and the fact that he and his political apparatus are already focused on the possibility of a rematch with President Biden.
So, instead of attending the next GOP debate — on September 27 in California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum — Mr. Trump plans to speak to more than 500 workers, with his campaign planning to fill the room with plumbers, pipefitters and construction workers. Electricians, as well as auto workers, according to a Trump adviser familiar with the planning. Mr. Trump did not directly address the striking workers’ wage demands and attacked the union leadership, but he tried to position himself more broadly on the side of autoworkers.
The campaign is also considering the possibility of Trump appearing on the picket line, though the adviser said such a visit, which would involve difficult logistics given the former president’s security protection, is unlikely.
The former president has long prided himself on his appeal to rank-and-file union workers — even as most union leaders remain hostile to him and Mr. Biden has called himself the most pro-union president in history. In the 2016 campaign, Trump adviser Paul Manafort sought to create a back channel with organized labor in Michigan and Wisconsin in the hope that the AFL-CIO would scale back its efforts to help the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. It seems that this move did not achieve any results, but it highlighted the areas that Trump considered vital in the general elections.
Trump won Michigan in the 2016 election, one of the states included in the so-called blue wall that collapsed against Democrats that year. But Mr. Biden carried Michigan by more than 150,000 votes in 2020, and it is seen as a battleground state for Democrats in 2024.
The Trump campaign has produced a radio ad that will run Tuesday in Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, in an attempt to portray Trump as aligned with auto workers. The same Trump advisor said the ad targets union workers and men, and will air on sports and rock stations.
“All they wanted was to compete fairly around the world and have their fair share of the American dream,” the ad’s narrator says. “Donald Trump calls them great Americans and has always had their back.”
Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized the shift to electric cars, and in a post on his social media site Truth Social over the weekend, called it an “electric car scam.” The radio ad also uses the Biden administration’s support for the transition to electric vehicles to attack Mr. Biden.
The announcement did not specifically mention the strike, which began last week against all three major Detroit automakers, in which the union is seeking a 40 percent wage increase over four years.
Mr. Biden has sided with striking workers, sending two of his top aides to Detroit and saying at the White House hours after the strike began that “workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create.”
The UAW clearly decided not to endorse Biden this spring before the current labor clash, with the union’s new president, Sean Fine, expressing concern about labor elements of the transition to electric vehicles. Meanwhile, Mr. Fine said in a memo that Mr. Trump would be a “disaster” if he returned to the White House.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend, Trump criticized Mr. Fine, saying workers were “sold down the river by their leadership.”
“I don’t know the guy, but I know his name well, and I think he’s not doing a good job of representing his union,” Trump said. “Because three years from now, he won’t have a union. All those jobs will be gone, because all those electric cars will be made in China.”
In a statement after The New York Times reported on Mr. Trump’s plans in Detroit, Mr. Fine said that “every part of our union is poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of working people.” “
“We cannot continue to elect billionaires and millionaires who have no understanding of what it means to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expect them to solve the problems of the working class,” he said.