Trump Set to Skip 2nd Debate, Meet with Striking Autoworkers in Michigan Instead

Former President Donald Trump is set to travel to the battleground state of Michigan next week to meet with striking automakers instead of appearing at the second GOP presidential debate, said a person familiar with his plans on Monday.

Trump also skipped last month’s first debate and signaled he is already focused on the 2024 election against Democrat President Joe Biden as he maintains a substantial lead against his Republican rivals in primary polls. Recently, he has been leaning hard into the strike, painted himself as sympathetic to the workers, and accused the president of trying to destroy the automobile industry by expanding other green energy policies and electric cars.

The September 27 trip, first reported by The New York Times, will also include a primetime speech, according to an individual familiar with the plans who spoke to The Associated Press before they were made public on a condition of anonymity. 

That is the date the other Republicans in the field are set to gather at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, for the second primary debate in the election cycle.

When his fellow contenders in the GOP gathered in Milwaukee last month, Trump instead took part in a pre-taped interview with Tucker Carlson that aired on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, during the debate’s first hour.

Trump has sought to paint himself as a fighter for the “forgotten women and men”

The former president has long sought to paint himself as a fighter for the “forgotten men and women” of the working class and spent the 2016 campaign in Rust Belt towns suffering from the shift away from manufacturing and mining. Earlier in the year, he visited East Palestine, Ohio, after a train derailment, a visit his aides consider a crucial moment in his campaign as he worked to recover from losses in the midterms and as they tried to move his focus away from his defeat in 2020.

Biden campaign spokesperson, Ammar Moussa, said Monday, “Donald Trump is going to Michigan next week to lie to Michigan workers and pretend he didn’t spend his entire failed presidency selling them out at every turn. Instead of standing with workers, Trump cut taxes for the super-wealthy while auto companies shuttered their doors and shipped American jobs overseas.” 

Moussa argued that former President Trump would have let auto companies go bankrupt during the financial crisis instead of bailing them out, as President Barack Obama did in 2009.

On Monday, Detroit’s Big Three carmakers and the United Auto Workers resumed talks to end the strike, which is now in its fourth day. A spokesperson for General Motors said a representative of the United Auto Workers and the company were continuing to negotiate.

UAW regional director in Indiana and Ohio, Dave Green, said the former president’s actions during his time in office give him “zero credibility” now with organized labor, adding he doesn’t see a way the UAW would ever endorse Trump.

“His only intention here is to try and get votes for himself. And, also divide our members against each other using political rhetoric,” said Green to the AP on Monday.

However, Trump has strong support in Michigan.

Earlier this summer, Trump traveled to Michigan, where the Oakland County GOP honored him as its Man of the Decade.

When asked about the strike in an interview that aired Sunday, he told NBC News that “auto workers will not have any jobs” because “electric cars, automatically, are going to be made in China.”

“The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump,” he said.