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Donald Trump predicted in a new CNN interview that he will win the Michigan Republican primary on March 8 “because I protect the car industry.”

On the campaign trail, Trump has railed against what he calls unfair trade policies that have shipped American manufacturing jobs to China and Mexico.

“Nobody else protects the car industry,” Trump told Wolf Blitzer in an interview that aired Monday, adding that he also expects to win New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia – “states that nobody ever thought of.”

Trump’s comments come a week ahead of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

The broadcast of the billionaire tycoon’s forecast came on the same day that the chairman of the Wayne County Republican Party said he is endorsing Trump for president in the GOP presidential primary field, becoming the first county or congressional district chair in Michigan to publicly back the billionaire real estate tycoon.

“I think he’s the most pro-Detroit candidate running on either side,” said Dillon Breen, chairman of the Wayne County GOP Committee. “I think Trump is the most manufacturing, pro-made-in-America candidate.”

In suburban Grand Rapids last month, Trump continued his months-long criticism of Ford Motor Co., vowing to pressure the Dearborn automaker to reverse its $2.5 billion expansion of manufacturing operations in Mexico if he’s elected president.

Trump said he would slap Ford with a punitive 35 percent tax for “every car, bumper and part” produced at an expanded plant in Mexico and would hike the tariff to 40 percent if Ford CEO Mark Fields initially balks at his demand that the company bring production back to the United States.

“I’m a free trader, but we can’t be stupid traders,” Trump said at the DeltaPlex Arena in Walker.

Other GOP presidential hopefuls have warned about the cost of slapping new tariffs on the goods of foreign competitors including China -- something that Trump is open to, he said during a debate this month.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida argued that American consumers would pay the tariff through higher prices on imported products, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he thought China would react by raising high tariffs on U.S. exports.

Trump has shifted his position on the 2008-09 bailout loans to General Motors and Chrysler after initially voicing support for the bailout in 2008.

“I think the government should stand behind them 100 percent,” Trump said on Fox News in 2008. “You cannot lose the auto companies. They’re great. They make wonderful products.”

But in an August interview with The News, Trump suggested GM and Chrysler could have survived without the assistance of the federal government serving as the lender of last resort.

“It would have worked out the other way, too,” Trump told The News. “It would have been a free-market deal.”

Breen, a Livonia native and college student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, became Michigan’s youngest chairman of a county Republican party last March when he was elected to the post.

Breen describes Trump as a candidate with the “charisma of Ronald Reagan and the policies of Dwight Eisenhower” and doesn’t think the businessman-turned reality TV star’s insults hurt him.

“You have to remember, he’s an entertainer, that’s what he does,” Breen said. “At the end day, he gets behind closed doors and makes deals. I can see him really being a bipartisan president.”

In December, Trump hired conservative Republican political operative Scott Hagerstrom to be his state campaign director in Michigan.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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