Is Trump anti-business? Do CEOs care?

Billionaire backs Trump's message to the average guy
Billionaire backs Trump's message to the average guy

Donald Trump doesn't sound like a friend of big business, much less Wall Street.

He antagonizes long-time trading partners. His anti-immigration rhetoric also puts him at odds with many in the C-suite.

He supports massive tax cuts and easing regulations, which business loves. But he refuses to commit to spending cuts, so his plans would balloon the debt. And he's quick to attack American companies that move jobs overseas.

Yet many Republican business leaders may come around to supporting Trump for one of several reasons.

They think Trump would behave differently once in office or that the alternative, Hillary Clinton, would be worse for their bottom lines.

Some aren't willing to stand in his way for fear of retribution, though rather than providing him with endorsements or support, they plan to direct their influence and dollars to protecting Republican control of Congress.

Billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack doesn't fit into any of those categories. He is part of a tiny group of executives who have passionately supported Trump for months. Barrack introduced the candidate to his new adviser Paul Manafort.

"Of course he's good for business," said Barrack.

The CEOs of Ford and Carrier might disagree with Barrack's statement. Trump called the carmaker "an absolute disgrace" for its investment in Mexico, and has repeatedly called out Carrier for planning to shut down a U.S. plant.

Barrack says Trump's attacks on corporate America stem from his genuine sympathy for the "average guy." Corporate America will end up endorsing and accepting Trump, predicts Barrack.

Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader who now works for boutique investment bank Moelis, had been backing Jeb Bush. When asked whether he would support Trump, Cantor said he would work to support whoever ends up being the Republican nominee.

"Look, I think you've got a shot with Donald Trump. He clearly comes from business world," said Cantor. "With Hilary Clinton you know what her policies are going to be."

Cantor sees Clinton continuing what he describes as Obama's regulatory crack down on big business. "I don't want to see another four years of that," he said.

Cantor says, however, that Trump's mockery of people with disabilities and his condemnation of minorities has offended him.

He also worried about Trump's foreign policy and thinks Trump needs to get much more specific.

Blackstone CEO: China wants the American Dream
Blackstone CEO: China wants the American Dream

He isn't the only influential Republican concerned by Trump's incendiary rhetoric.

Steve Schwarzman, whose Blackstone Group has invested billions in China, says that statements like "China is raping America" are causing anxiety. Trump has criticized U.S. trade deals and threatened to tear them up. Any U.S. violation of those agreements would harm business, said Schwarzman.

Still, the private equity titan wouldn't rule out supporting Trump. In response to questions about a Trump endorsement, he said "it would be great if there were articulation of positions."

Schwarzman is a lot more serious and measured about Trump than last October when he referred to the candidate as P.T. Barnum.

Now, Schwarzman is sticking to commenting on the election cycle itself, calling it colorful.

Fiscal conservatives are also having a hard time supporting Trump. Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, called his plan impossible. "It's a big pander," said MacGuineas. "He's talking about fixing the program with waste, fraud and abuse. When politicians talk about that, they make it sound easy instead of being realistic and that doesn't do a favor at all for voters and policy makers who have to."

Long time Hillary Clinton supporter J.B. Pritzker, who runs an investment fund with his brother Tony, couldn't be happier about confusion over Trump. The firm has invested in companies ranging from Jessica Alba's Honest Co. to SpaceX.

Tony, however, isn't amused. A donor to Republican candidates in the past, he has declined to say whether Trump could earn his support. "I'm a little disappointed," said Tony. "I don't like the behavior, I don't like the bullying. The result is that it makes it a little hard for me to support Trump."

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