Former President Donald J. Trump plans to travel to Detroit on the day of the next Republican primary debate, according to two Trump advisers with knowledge of the plans, to inject himself into the labor dispute between striking auto workers and the nation’s top automakers. country.
The trip, which will include a primetime address to current and former union members, is the second consecutive primary debate that Trump has skipped to instead conduct his own counterprogramming. He sat for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, which posted online during the GOP’s first presidential debate in August.
The decision to go to Michigan, just days after the United Auto Workers went on strike, shows the extent to which Trump wants to be seen as looking past his main rivals — and the reality that both he and his political apparatus are already focused are 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 employees, while his campaign plans to fill the chamber to be filled with plumbers, pipe fitters, electricians as well as auto workers, according to one of the Trump advisers familiar with the planning. Mr. Trump has not directly addressed striking workers’ wage demands and has attacked union leadership, but he has tried to side more broadly with autoworkers.
The campaign is also considering the possibility of having Mr. Trump appear on the picket line, although the adviser said such a visit, which could 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 have remained hostile to him, and while Mr. Biden has called himself the most pro-union president in history. During the 2016 campaign, an adviser to Mr. Trump, Paul Manafort, tried to establish a back-channel with organized labor in Michigan and Wisconsin, hoping that the AFL-CIO would strengthen its efforts to support the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton , would scale back. It didn’t seem to go anywhere, but underlined areas Trump considered crucial in the general election.
Mr. Trump won Michigan in the 2016 election, one of the states in the so-called blue wall that collapsed for Democrats that year. But Mr. Biden carried Michigan with more than 150,000 votes in 2020, and it is seen as a critical state for Democrats in 2024.
The Trump campaign has produced a radio spot to appear Tuesday in Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, that seeks to align Mr. Trump with autoworkers. The same Trump adviser said the ad was aimed at union workers and men, and will air on sports and rock-themed channels.
“All they’ve ever wanted is to compete fairly globally and get their fair share of the American dream,” the narrator says in the ad. “Donald Trump calls them great Americans and has always stood behind them.”
Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized the transition to electric vehicles, and in a post on his social media site Truth Social this weekend, he called it an “electric car SCAM.” The radio spot also uses the Biden administration’s support for the transition to electric vehicles to attack Mr. Biden.
The ad does not specifically mention the strike, which began last week against all three major automakers in Detroit, and in which the union is seeking a 40 percent wage increase over four years.
Mr. Biden has sided with striking workers, sending two 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 United Auto Workers emphatically decided not to support Mr. Biden this spring, ahead of the current labor dispute, with the union’s new president, Shawn Fain, expressing concerns about the labor elements of the transition to electric vehicles. At the same time, Mr. Fain said in a memo that Mr. Trump would be a “disaster” if he returned to the White House.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” broadcast this weekend, Mr. Trump was critical of Mr. Fain, saying workers had been “sold down the river by their leadership.”
“I don’t know the gentleman, but I know his name very well, and I don’t think he represents his union well,” Trump said. ‘Because in three years he won’t have a union anymore. Those jobs will all disappear because all those electric cars will be made in China.”
In a statement after DailyExpertNews reported on Mr. Trump’s plans in Detroit, Mr. Fain said that “every fiber of our union is being used to fight the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump beyond expense of the employees. ”
“We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires who have no idea what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet, and expect them to solve the problems of the working class,” he said .