Trump expected to skip 2nd Republican debate, plans speech to workers in Detroit

The primary front-runner has suggested he sees no reason to go on stage.

September 18, 2023, 5:53 PM

Former President Donald Trump is expected to skip the second Republican primary debate, in California on Sept. 27, and will instead visit Detroit to deliver a speech in front of union workers amid a major auto strike, according to a senior adviser.

The move -- which will likely draw criticism from some of his primary challengers, just as it did when he opted out of the first debate -- comes as a work stoppage unfolds against the three largest motor vehicle manufacturers in the U.S. and offers Trump an opportunity to deliver a message to a key voting bloc in a pivotal battleground state, Michigan. (President Joe Biden has likewise emphasized his pro-union bona fides.)

The news of Trump's debate decision was first reported by The New York Times.

Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks on at a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, S. D., Sept. 8, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

He has been courting auto workers on his social media platform in recent weeks and, while he has yet to offer substantive comments on the strike, he has criticized United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain as not doing a “good job."

On Monday evening, President Joe Biden's campaign assailed Trump's plan to speak with union workers in Detroit next week amid the strike.

“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," Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a written statement. "Instead of standing with workers, Trump cut taxes for the super-wealthy while auto companies shuttered their doors and shipped American jobs overseas. He’s said he would’ve let auto companies go bankrupt, devastating the industry and upending millions of lives. That’s why Trump lost Michigan in 2020 and his MAGA friends further decimated the Michigan Republican Party and cost them 2022. No self-serving photo op can erase Trump’s four years of abandoning union workers and standing with his ultra-rich friends.”

The UAW, which represents nearly 150,000 American autoworkers, on Monday entered its fourth day on strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Ongoing sticking points in negotiations include wage increases and the length of the work week.

Trump declined to participate in the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, suggesting he saw no reason to share the stage with his competitors because of his polling lead. Instead, he opted for counter-programming the evening with an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

"The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had," he posted on social media before the first debate.

Other GOP presidential candidates called him out.

"You have got to earn the nomination, and ... doing things like these debates, they’re important parts of the process," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in July.