Former President Donald Trump will skip the second Republican presidential primary debate in California next week and instead will travel to Detroit to deliver a speech to an audience that will include current and former union members, according to a source familiar with his plans.
His prime-time remarks will serve as counterprogramming to the September 27 debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
The news comes as the United Auto Workers’ strike has entered its fourth day.
“The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump,” the former president told NBC News in an interview last week.
President Joe Biden’s campaign, criticizing what it deemed a “self-serving photo op,” said Monday night that Trump was going to the state to “pretend he didn’t spend his entire failed presidency selling (Michigan workers) out at every turn.”
“Instead of standing with workers, Trump cut taxes for the super-wealthy while auto companies shuttered their doors and shipped American jobs overseas,” said spokesperson Ammar Moussa, who also noted that Trump lost Michigan to Biden in 2020.
Details of Trump’s Detroit trip were first reported by The New York Times.
Trump, who has maintained a large lead in national and early-state primary polls, also skipped the first GOP primary debate in Milwaukee last month. The third debate is scheduled to take place in Miami in November. The former president told former Fox News host Megyn Kelly last week that while he would participate in potential general election debates with Biden, he is unlikely to debate his GOP rivals.
“I don’t see it,” Trump said. “Why would I do it?”
Like the first debate, Republican candidates must meet certain donor and polling thresholds to make the Simi Valley debate stage.
They will need at least 3% in two national polls or in one national poll and two polls from separate early-voting states – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. Qualifying polls must be conducted on or after August 1 and meet several requirements, including that they’ve surveyed at least 800 “registered likely Republican voters” and are not conducted by a company affiliated with a candidate.
Candidates must also have a minimum of 50,000 unique donors, with at least 200 donors in 20 states or territories. Debate participants will also need to sign a pledge committing to supporting the eventual Republican nominee.
This story has been updated with additional details.