CLINTON TWP, Mich. (FOX 2) - On Wednesday, Republican hopefuls for President are attending the second debate – except for one. As they gather at the Ronald Reagan Library in California, former President Donald Trump is in the battleground state of Michigan to try to win over blue-collar voters in the middle of the UAW strike.
Trump spoke in Clinton Township in Macomb County at Drake Enterprises. Watch the full speech in the video player above.
The Republican front-runner’s trip comes a day after President Joe Biden became the first sitting president in U.S. history to walk a picket line as he joined United Auto Workers in Detroit. The union is pushing for higher wages, shorter work weeks and assurances from the country’s top automakers that new electric vehicle jobs will be unionized.
The dueling appearances preview what will likely be a chief dynamic of the 2024 general election, which increasingly looks like a rematch between Trump and Biden. Michigan is expected to again be a critical battleground state as both candidates try to paint themselves as champions of the working class.
Trump will not be met with open arms from union leadership, as Biden was. UAW President Shawn Fain spoke with a cable news outlet Tuesday night, calling it "pathetic irony" that Trump would hold a rally for union members at a non-union business.
Trump's visit to Michigan comes at a fluid time in the 2024 general election race. Seen as the front-running for the Republican Party, the former president skipped the first debate to give remarks elsewhere. He's recently posted on his social media that the party should pay less attention to the upcoming primaries and instead focus on the general election.
Michigan is likely going to play a role in the 2024 race for president. Blue collar workers make up a key demographic and voting bloc for both Democrats and Republicans and depending on how it votes could help one candidate win the state.
What is Drake Enterprises?
The supplier builds gear shift levers, engine components, and parts for transmissions in heavy trucks, according to its website. Its clients include brands from all three Detroit automakers as well as several other manufacturers.
It employs 125 workers and in 2019, it expanded its operations when it announced it would open a second manufacturing facility.
On Facebook, it wrote it was excited to host Trump for the rally.
According to the Michigan AFL-CIO, which encompasses several union groups, Drake Enterprises is a non-union manufacturer and supplier
Trump and unions
Among the themes that Trump has railed against and likely will touch on again Wednesday is electric vehicles. Among the biggest policies pushed by the Biden administration is the need to pivot the auto industry toward more battery-powered vehicles.
That has big implications for unions who face an uncertain future as new kinds of vehicles start rolling off the line. This round of negotiations may be the last best chance to secure contracts before the pivot becomes permanent.
Fain has previously said the argument that EVs are bad is an attractive one for some members and warned Biden that he shouldn't forget about that piece of the debate.
According to Axios, Trump secured 43% of the union vote in 2016, helping him tip states like Michigan. Biden reclaimed some of the votes along the way to his 2020 vote. The dueling visits to Michigan underscore just how important those margins are.
But one thing is certain, Trump does not have the favor of Fain, who spoke to CNN's Wolf Blitzer Tuesday night, chastising Trump for the placement of his rally.
"I find the pathetic irony that the former president is going to hold a rally for union members at a non-union business and all you have to do is look at his track record," he said, referring to comments Trump made about workers in 2008 and 2015 and then as president in 2019, the last time that workers went on strike.
"Our workers at GM were on strike for 60 days. For two months, they were on the picket lines. I didn't see him hold a rally, I didn't see him stand on the picket lines. And I sure as hell didn't see him comment on it. He was missing in action," he said. "I see no point in meeting with him because I don't think the man has any bit of care about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for. He serves the billionaire class and that's what's wrong with this country."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.