(This post originally appeared on The Washington Times)
According to the Small Business Administration, there are about 30 million small businesses in the United States. Among them are 6 million companies that each employ up to 500 people. Regardless of which way you look at it, the small business voting bloc is very substantial. So will President Trump win over this group?
There’s no reason to believe that he shouldn’t, particularly when you line up his policies — and his accomplishments — with his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
For the past three years, and up until the COVID-19 outbreak, the president has overseen a massive economic surge. Just about every metric that impacts the livelihood of the typical small business owner — from retail and restaurant sales to industrial production, construction spending and manufacturing output – reached or closely reached all-time highs. Small business confidence was at historic levels.
The stock market had appreciated more than fifty percent. Employer health care choices were expanded. Regulations were reduced and tax rates were cut. Our biggest problem up until March wasn’t a slow economy — it was that the economy was so strong we couldn’t find enough people to get product out the door.
Even during the pandemic, the Trump administration’s actions have been extremely pro-business. The Paycheck Protection Program — a Republican initiative thanks to Sen. Marco Rubio has, despite its hiccups, been an enormous success. Other facets of the administration’s supported CARES Act — from expanding emergency relief and unemployment payments to contractors and freelancers to generous tax credits and deferrals and forgiveness of SBA loan payments, all benefited small businesses.
Even today, critics are aghast at the Trump administration’s continued ignoring of rising COVID-19 cases but small business owners around the country are grateful for the president’s efforts to support their re-openings, despite the risks.
Another thing in favor of the president is demographics. According to a study of more than 3,000 small business owners released last year from financing firm Guidant Financial, 87 percent said that they were over the age of 39, with 43 percent being over the age of 55. Older voters have historically leaned to Mr. Trump. It also isn’t surprising that 73 percent of these business owners are men and 41 percent identify as Republicans, compared to 29 percent who said they were Democrats.
All of these numbers should translate into a landslide vote from small businesses for the resident this fall, particularly when you consider his opponent.
While not as extreme as some of the other more progressive Democratic candidates he defeated, Joe Biden’s policies are certainly more in favor of labor than business owners. He supports an increase in individual, capital gains and corporate taxes. He wants a national minimum wage and mandated paid time off. He’s determined to restore the Affordable Care Act, which will provide less options to small businesses, and step up rules and regulations to more protect workers, the environment and industry practices. All admirable goals. But all at a cost to small businesses.
Any small business owner — when looking just at the policies and considering nothing else — would agree that voting for Mr. Trump is a no-brainer when it comes to which candidate is better for their business. But the problem is that the 30 million small business owners in this country are people with their own personal opinions and passions and they just can’t look at the policies. They look at the person.
And that’s where the problem lies: not in his policies, but with his personality. Many of my clients and colleagues — moderate, reasonable Republicans — are frustrated with the president’s behavior. They’re embarrassed by his tweets and ashamed of his public persona. They’ve grown tired of the shenanigans, fights, narcissism and selfishness.
Many of my smartest clients are re-considering their support for the president mainly because business owners want to minimize risk. We want more certainty. Yet amazingly after almost four years of a Trump presidency, we’re actually more certain of what a future Biden administration will do then a future Trump administration. As much as we’d prefer Mr. Trump, we can better navigate a Biden presidency because we can better plan.
Winning the small business vote for President Trump shouldn’t be that difficult. But, because of President Trump, it is. If he sticks to his policies and downplays his foolishness he would be much more appealing. It’s a simple strategy. Well, for most of us anyway.