Ben Carson is now number two in the polls, still significantly behind Trump, but gaining. And gaining enough to have drawn the attention of (and attacks from) Trump over the past few days.
Trump and Carson have similarities - both are political outsiders with very little foreign policy experience and, in some cases, very controversial views on certain social issues - for example, Trump wants to build a wall bordering Mexico; Carson is adamantly pro-life. But when it comes to policies, both candidates are running more on their personalities than facts at the moment, which means that drawing a comparison isn't easy. However, and based on what the candidates have said so far in public, posted on their websites and social media, it's not so hard to differentiate between the two on business matters. And if you're a Republican voter, it seems like Trump is the better candidate than Carson for your business this primary season. And for these three reasons.
Trump has a business and management background, Carson does not.
This is the obvious difference. Carson is a brilliant neurosurgeon. He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was named one of American's "best leaders" by U.S. News & World Report. He was elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and was recently ranked sixth on the list of the most admired men in the world in a Gallup poll. The guy is the real deal. Trump was recently inducted into the celebrity wing of the World Wrestling Entertainment hall of fame at Madison Square Garden and was once nominated for an Emmy for his role on The Apprentice. It's safe to say he's no Carson when it comes to awards.
But the fact is that Trump is a business man and a dealmaker (and of course, he won't let anyone forget that). He has spent his life negotiating, hiring, firing, managing budgets, managing people and putting out fires. He has built a very successful organization which seems to be running itself -in as much that he can spend most of his time campaigning for President while things at HQ keep operating profitability. And how many of us who own businesses wish we could take that kind of time away to do other stuff without things imploding? You can argue with Trump's style, his arrogance, his abrasiveness and whether or not that kind of managerial approach will work in DC. But you can't argue that his experience running organizations runs much deeper than Carson's. I would look for more pro-business legislation with Trump as President than Carson because of this experience.
Trump's approach to taxation and the economy appears more pragmatic (for now).
If you're a business owner, don't think for a minute that Trump would immediately lower taxes across the board and slash government spending to bring deficits under control. He's admitted in the past that our enormous national debt is a serious issue and that it will take both tax increases, cuts in expenditures as well as economic growth to solve this problem. He has been on record that he would favor a tax increase on the wealthy to help accomplish this. Unfortunately, he has been short on details as to what else he'd do. But his approach is more pragmatic than Carson's.
That's because Carson favors a balanced budget amendment. And that's a great thing in theory, right? But anyone running a business, let alone a government organization, knows that balanced budgets are not the real world. Things change all the time and budgets have to be flexible. Businesses have to spend more than budgeted in order to meet a challenge. And so do governments. What if there were a war? A catastrophic event? A health outbreak? And it required a billion dollars? Where would the money come from in a balanced budget world and how soon? In this political environment, passing an amendment to the constitution, which would require ratification by each state, would take years if it were even possible. The rising budget deficit and national debt impacts our government's ability to spend, raises the prospect of future taxation and spending cuts and creates uncertainty in both our financial system and public markets - all things that affect our businesses. A balanced budget amendment isn't something a business owner would consider to be a realistic solution to this very real and looming problem. Which is why Trump's approach, even with details lacking, would likely be better. For now.
Trump is more moderate on social issues.
Carson is pro-life. He supports faith-based decisions. He stands with the gun industry. He favors "civil unions" over gay marriage. He is against legalized marijuana. This is why the far right loves him. He is a religious, principled man regardless of whether some of those principles are consistent with others. Trump, on the other hand, does not come off as principled. His positions on all of these issues have changed over the years. He seems to avoid going on record, opting instead to keep his options open. To Trump, there's always a potential deal in the future and he'd rather not show his hand if he can avoid it, lest he puts himself into an inferior position. Sound familiar?
It does. The successful business owners I know have become successful because they also keep their options open. They don't rule out entire swaths of potential customers just because they differ over their religion, sexual orientation or whether or not they like to get high once in a while. In a Carson presidency, if you're in the pot business, or run an abortion clinic, then you're bad. But those who choose not to sell to gay people are OK. With Trump, you're likely to be less judged - whether you sell guns, perform abortions or cater to the LGBT community, just as long as you're paying your taxes and not causing any trouble. That seems like a better business environment.
So, if you're a Republican who is best for your business - Trump or Carson? It seems like Trump. If you're an American, who would be the best President? Well, that decision should definitely be deferred - there's still a long, long way to go.
A version of this column previously appeared on Inc.com.