Former President Donald Trump promised a booming economy if returned to office and asked repeatedly for a union endorsement in a Michigan campaign speech.
Speaking before and then opposite the second GOP presidential debate, Trump made the case for a long-shot endorsement from the United Auto Workers, a union that is on strike.
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“Do me a favor. Just get your union guys, your leaders to endorse me,” Trump said at one point, though he asked several times. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
Former President Donald Trump speaks in Clinton Township, Mich., Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.
Trump skipped the Republican debate in favor of his own stage at Drake Enterprises in Clinton Township, Michigan, hoping to draw viewers away from the seven contenders duking it out across the country in Simi Valley, California.
The hourlong speech focused heavily on the economy, filtered through the current UAW strike and the impact electric vehicles could have on industrial workers.
“[Electric vehicles] are built specifically for people who want to take a very short trip,” Trump said. “They say the happiest day when you buy an electric car is the first 10 minutes you’re driving it. And then after that, panic sets in because you’re worried, ‘Where the hell am I going to get a charge to keep this thing going?’ ”
People in the audience hoisted “Union Members for Trump” signs.
Though Trump is unlikely to get a UAW endorsement — the union’s president, Shawn Fain, has said another Trump term would be a “disaster” — he has historically pulled in a lot of support from rank-and-file union members.
Detroit-based UAW is one of the few unions yet to endorse President Joe Biden, mostly due to a dispute over electric vehicles. The Biden administration is aggressively pushing a transition to EVs and included electric car subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act.
UAW worries that EVs will mean fewer jobs because the cars require fewer parts, and Trump warned that the transition would not be successful in any case.
“The auto industry is being assassinated,” Trump said. “It’s a hit job on Michigan and on Detroit. … All of these cars will be manufactured in foreign lands that you couldn’t care less about.”
Michigan is a battleground state that Trump narrowly won in 2016 and narrowly lost in 2020, and both parties are focusing heavily on the state for 2024. Biden briefly campaigned in Michigan on Tuesday by visiting a UAW picket line.
Trump’s speech veered into several different policy areas, though the economy was the clear central focus throughout.
“I stood up to the people that hate you,” Trump told the crowd. “They hate you! Or maybe they hate our country.”
He bragged about renegotiating trade deals, imposing tariffs on China, and presiding over a strong economy during his first term.
“My greatest unsung achievement, I kept Chinese cars out of America,” Trump said to cheers. “UAW, is that OK? … If they took [Chinese tariffs] off, you’d be out of business right away.”
On a related note, he bragged that he would restore drilling for American oil, saying the country has enough gasoline to last another 500 years, all without damaging the environment.
“A few years ago, we were energy independent. Now we’re begging countries to give us gasoline,” Trump said. “Venezuela’s getting rich. We’re refining their tar.”
The crowd broke out into a “Trump! Trump! Trump!” cheer at one point as Trump wondered aloud if he was visiting one of his famous rallies.
Biden featured in the speech as well. Trump said the Democratic incumbent can’t find his way off of a stage and puts illegal aliens and “environmental lunatics” first. The four indictments against Trump were handed down by “the forces of evil,” he claimed, and Trump said ominously that such behavior “works both ways” when a new president takes office.
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Trump promised to reverse Biden’s electric vehicle mandate on day one and said he’d make the United States energy independent again.
“My message to you tonight is that Michigan’s abuse under Joe Biden will end, and I will take you to new heights you’ve never dreamed of before,” Trump said. “Never even dreamed of.”