Trump to Skip Second Primary Debate for Speech to Auto Workers in Detroit

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Former President Donald Trump will skip the second Republican presidential primary debate, which is scheduled to occur on Sept. 27 in California. The move comes after he decided to forego the first debate and sit for an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Instead of attending the second event, he will give a speech to unionized auto workers in Metro Detroit.

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Trump’s visit will occur against the backdrop of an ongoing strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW) against Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., and Stellantis. The Trump campaign appears to be intent on reaching out to these individuals with an event hosting 500 of them.

Former President Donald J. Trump is planning to travel to Detroit on the day of the next Republican primary debate, according to two Trump advisers with knowledge of the plans, injecting himself into the labor dispute between striking autoworkers and the nation’s leading auto manufacturers.

The trip, which will include a prime-time speech before current and former union members, is the second consecutive primary debate that Mr. Trump is skipping to instead hold his own counterprogramming. He sat for an interview with the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that posted online during the first G.O.P. 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 Mr. Trump wants to be seen as looking past his primary rivals — and the reality that both he and his political apparatus are already focused on the possibility of a rematch with President Biden.

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Upon learning the news, Team Biden lashed out at the former president, accusing him of “selling out” the industry when he was president.

Ammar Moussa, a press officer for Mr. Biden’s campaign, said in a statement, “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.”

Mr. Biden has sided with the 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 pointedly decided not to endorse Mr. Biden this spring ahead of the current labor clash, with the union’s new president, Shawn Fain, expressing concern about the labor elements of the transition to electric vehicles. At the same time, in a memo, Mr. Fain said Mr. Trump would be a “disaster” if he returned to the White House.

Trump’s prior relationship with the Detroit Three automakers has been tumultuous, to say the least, given his harsh criticism of the industry’s shift to electric vehicles and prediction it would result in the loss of jobs in the sector. Trump has also lambasted President Joe Biden’s administration for offering incentives for companies to make the shift.

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The former president, during an interview on NBC, noted that the auto workers “are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should support Trump.”

Trump skipped the last debate, citing his considerable lead over the rest of the primary contenders in the polls. It appears the same is true of the upcoming debate as the former president is still leading the pack by double digits.

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