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Trump to court striking auto workers in Michigan, skip second GOP debate

Chad Livengood and Riley Beggin, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

DETROIT — Former President Donald Trump plans to skip the second Republican presidential debate and come to Metro Detroit instead to rally unionized auto workers on strike, according to a Trump campaign adviser.

The Trump campaign is planning an event for 500 auto workers on Sept. 27 that will coincide with the GOP presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The event is being staged around the United Auto Workers' ongoing strike of Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Stellantis. The Detroit News first reported on Saturday that Trump was weighing a visit to Michigan to appeal to striking auto workers.

On Tuesday, the Trump campaign will start airing radio advertisements on select stations in the Detroit and Toledo markets that portrays Trump as pro-auto worker, the source said.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, skipped the first debate in Milwaukee in August in favor of a social media interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Trump has been long critical of Detroit Three automakers in his past campaigns for the presidency and this time around has sharply criticized their race to build battery electric vehicles, which require fewer parts than gas-burning internal combustion engines.

The former one-term Republican president also has lambasted Democratic President Joe Biden's policies geared toward incentivizing the transition to electric vehicles. Last week, Trump predicted the transition to EVs would be "a transition to hell" and he publicly urged the UAW's leadership to demand the Detroit Three cease moving away from gas-powered vehicles.


"Nothing is more important than terminating this job-crushing mandate," Trump said in a statement.

While Trump courts union voters, the UAW has so far withheld its endorsement for president. But UAW President Shawn Fain has said another Trump term would be a "disaster."

A majority of the UAW membership shares that preference for Democrats, according to polls, but Republicans have slowly been gaining a greater share of their allegiances.

According to 2017 data from the University of Michigan and the American National Election Series, more than 38% of union households voted for Trump in 2016, compared with 33% for Romney in 2012 and 28% for the late-Sen. John McCain in 2008.

That trend continued in 2020, with Trump capturing 40% of union households. Of course, union membership is not synonymous with the White working class: More than 17% of auto workers in the country were Black in 2019, and Black voters overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Biden in 2020.


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