Former President Trump dug into President Biden on Wednesday in a bid to woo autoworkers in Michigan, a state he lost last election, as his GOP rivals gathered across the country for the second presidential primary debate in Simi Valley, Calif.
Trump, speaking in Clinton Township, a suburb of Detroit, wasted no time before bashing the incumbent president on what he views as a flawed and failing auto industry under the Biden administration, criticizing the White House on everything from China and NAFTA to electric vehicles.
“A vote for Crooked Joe means the future of the auto industry will be ‘Made in China,’” Trump said to a lively audience.
Trump was addressing a raucous crowd who cheered as he sought to draw policy contrasts with Biden — whom he hopes to face as the next Republican presidential nominee — while throwing personal jabs at the Democratic president.
“Crooked Joe Biden is back like a wretched old vulture trying to finish off his prey,” Trump said roughly 20 minutes into his speech.
Trump’s event comes after Biden sought this week to court members of the United Auto Workers union, taking the unusual step of joining striking members on the picket line. Biden announced he would head to the battleground state after Trump announced plans to do the same.
In contrast with Biden’s optimistic tone for frustrated workers, Trump painted a grim picture about what their future could look like under another term for Biden, “radical” Democrats, “environmental lunatics,” and “left-wing crazies,” as he referred to his political opponents.
The event kicked off the unofficial start to the 2024 cycle for working class voters in a part of the Midwest that’s critical to assembling a winning coalition.
“The auto industry is being assassinated,” Trump said. “They’re going to be closing up and building those cars in China and other places. It’s a hit job on Michigan.”
Trump spent a portion of his speech outlining the ways in which he believes employees are worse off under Biden as he pivoted to acknowledge the “suffering of the American factory workers.”
“You’re losing your way of life,” he said emphatically, further contending that jobs and whole industries in the United States are being shredded while Biden is serving as commander in chief.
He also said that Biden has made America’s standing on the national stage weaker, promising that the country will have a renewed sense of credibility under a second Trump term.
“The whole world is laughing at us,” he said. “Give me four more years and I will give you an end to this horrible globalism that’s killing our country.”
The former president, who has sustained two impeachments and is currently undergoing multiple indictments as the GOP front-runner, also made several campaign pledges in an attempt to energize voters.
“I will unleash a thing called American energy,” Trump said while outlining more ways that he would distinguish himself from Biden. “I will be your protector, I will be your advocate,” he pledged, adding, “on day one, I will terminate Joe Biden’s electric vehicle mandate” and levy a tariff on goods made outside of the U.S.
He also took a shot at environmental advocates who have had a major influence on Biden’s administration. Biden has worked to address climate change at a larger scale than past presidents and has faced pushback from Republicans and the fossil fuel industry.
“We will drill, baby, drill,” Trump said. “It will have zero environmental difference.”
Updated at 9:22 p.m. ET