Former President Donald Trump, responding to criticisms from his primary opponents during the second GOP debate, explained that he believed it was “much more important” for him to focus on “saving” autoworkers. He cited his significant lead in the primary polls as a reason for his absence from the debate, dismissing the “Donald Duck” nickname given to him by Chris Christie.

Trump did not participate in the second Republican debate held in Simi Valley, California, which drew criticism from his GOP primary opponents, who repeatedly mentioned his absence and emphasized that he should have been present to defend his administration’s record.

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In an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital on Wednesday night, Trump stated, “I thought it was much more important, considering I have a 56-point lead, for me to be dealing with the UAW (United Auto Workers) and the fact that the Biden Administration is going to destroy their jobs over the next two years by going all-electric vehicle.”

Trump spoke before a crowd of autoworkers in Clinton Township, Michigan, where he emphasized the importance of American-made automobiles. He expressed satisfaction with the crowd’s response, describing it as “incredible” and indicating strong support for his efforts to protect autoworker jobs.

During the debate, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addressed Trump directly, stating, “Donald, I know you’re watching. You can’t help yourself.” Christie criticized Trump for not participating and humorously suggested that if Trump continued to avoid debates, people would stop calling him “Donald Trump” and start referring to him as “Donald Duck.” Trump responded by dismissing the nickname and stating that anyone who would come up with such a nickname should not be running for president.

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Recent polling data showed Trump leading in the Republican primary race, with 60% of Republican primary voters supporting him. Other candidates received lower levels of support, with Ron DeSantis at 13%, Vivek Ramaswamy at 11%, Nikki Haley at 5%, Mike Pence and Tim Scott at 3% each, and Chris Christie at 2%. Trump also maintained a lead over President Biden in a head-to-head general election poll, winning 52% to 42%. Biden’s approval rating in the same poll stood at 37%, with 56% of respondents disapproving of his presidency.