(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump attacked the Biden administration’s push for electric vehicles in a bid to woo blue-collar voters in the battleground state of Michigan, saying it will lead to the “assassination” of the automobile industry and lost jobs to China.
Trump spoke while his Republican rivals were participating in the second presidential debate in California that he skipped because of his lead in national polls. It was also a gambit to peel off union support for President Joe Biden in Michigan, where members of the striking United Auto Workers are worried about job security in the transition to EVs.
“You can be loyal to American labor or you can be loyal to the environmental lunatics. But you can’t really be loyal to both, it’s one or the other,” Trump told an invitation-only crowd of a few hundred people on the shop floor of Drake Enterprises, a nonunion supplier of parts including gear shift levers and transmission components.
Trump said he supports consumers being able to choose an electric vehicle but opposes “job-killing EV mandates.” He said he hopes striking UAW workers get a good deal but that it won’t matter if the transition to EVs costs the US jobs.
The former president also attacked General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. for not resisting Biden’s EV policies, and he sought to drive a wedge between union leaders who have historically supported Democrats and the rank and file that includes Republicans, imploring union members to get their leadership to endorse him. UAW President Shawn Fain has ruled out backing Trump but has not endorsed Biden.
Read More: GOP Candidates Assail Biden’s Handling of UAW Strike at Debate
Biden visited a picket line at a General Motors Co. plant in suburban Detroit on Tuesday in a historic show of solidarity with organized labor. The dueling events highlight how the strike and battle for union support — critical in the swing state of Michigan — have become a 2024 flashpoint.
Trump won the presidency in 2016 by winning over enough working-class voters in states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, but Biden carried Michigan in 2020 by about 154,000 votes, thanks in part to 62% of the vote from those in a union household.
The former president has said autoworkers are “being sold down the river” by Fain. The UAW president, who has said a second Trump term would be “a disaster,” questioned why Trump would speak to union members at a company that employs nonunion workers.
“I don’t think he cares about working-class people,” Fain told reporters on Tuesday after Biden’s visit. “He cares about the billionaire class, he cares about the corporate interests, and I think he’s just trying to pander to people and say what they want to hear.”
Doug King, 55, of Clawson, who works at Stellantis NV’s Sterling Stamping Plant, attended Trump’s event wearing a red “UAW Strong” T-shirt and said it didn’t bother him that the company is nonunion because Trump “represents all workers.”
Earlier: UAW Threatens to Strike More Plants Friday If No Progress
He said he voted for Barack Obama but then Trump in 2016 and 2020 because he trusts him to protect autoworker jobs more than he did Bill Clinton, Obama, and now Biden.
“Under Clinton, Obama and Biden, I was always afraid of losing my job because our jobs were going overseas,” King said.
The Biden campaign issued a statement while Trump was still speaking, denouncing his “EV lies.” According to the statement, he was trying to distract from his own record of having the US “losing the EV race to China” and sacrificing the “jobs of the future.”
The campaign also broadcast a commercial in Michigan before Trump’s appearance that showed him golfing and said his record doesn’t match his rhetoric of standing up for autoworkers while “Joe Biden doesn’t just talk, he delivers.”
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