BIRCH RUN, Mich. (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came to the home state of the auto industry and attacked Ford Motor Co. for building factories in Mexico. And the Michigan faithful in attendance sided with the outspoken mogul.
“Ford is building a $2.5 billion plant in Mexico,” he roared to a packed auditorium here and 2,000 voices responded with lusty boos. “I’ll actually give them a good idea. Why don’t we just let the illegals drive the cars and trucks right into our country?”
The real estate developer and former reality TV star boasted that “President Trump” won’t let Ford move jobs to Mexico and will persuade the CEO Mark Fields to bring jobs back to the U.S.
“I would say, the deal is not going to be approved, I won’t allow it. I want that plant in the United States, preferably here,” he said, as the crowd rose to its feet, chanting “U.S.A.,” punctuated by a woman shouting “Detroit.” “So then I only have one question: Do they move the plant to the United States the same day or a day later?” Trump asked.
Playing to the fears of local residents in this industrial region 90 miles north of Detroit, Trump gave insight into why he continues to dominate the Republican field despite media firestorms over his comments on Mexican immigrants, Sen. John McCain’s war record and women. Standing before four American flags at a rostrum decorated with a small Republican elephant, Trump showed how he can fire up a GOP crowd still worried about the economy, terrorism and illegal immigrants.
“I’ve been waiting for somebody with cojones for a long time,” said Jim Maratta, 68, a Vietnam veteran sitting in the front row wearing his VFW cap and an American flag shirt. “We need somebody with guts. I want to see him do something for jobs and get those deadbeats in Congress off their butts.”
Ford countered that it is creating jobs in the U.S. The automaker in April announced it is investing $2.5 billion in Mexico on two new factories to make engines and transmissions. The UAW also objects to Ford’s growing Mexican investments and has said that will be a focal point in contract talks this summer.
“We are committed to leveraging our global manufacturing footprint and will continue to invest where it makes the best sense for our business,” said Karl Henkel, a Ford spokesman. "We are proud that we have invested $6.2 billion in our U.S. plants since 2011 and hired nearly 25,000 U.S. employees."
Trump led an NBC News/Survey Monkey poll over the weekend with 23 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was next with 13 percent.