Republican primary voters will begin casting votes for their preferred nominee in less than 100 days, and with Donald Trump and Ben Carson now statistically neck-and-neck in the polls, the race is a tossup.
Gathered below are 12 of the biggest differences between the so-called “outsider” candidates who are drawing the most support.
1. Occupation — Because neither candidate has ever held public office, Trump and Carson will be tasked with drawing on their professional backgrounds in the private sector should they become president. Trump took up the family real estate business, bringing his business savvy from Queens to Manhattan, and turning millions into billions. In the process, he built more than one gleaming tower on the island, and expanded his footprint to Atlantic City, Las Vegas and, more recently, Washington, D.C.
Carson is also deeply accomplished, having pioneered a number of new life-saving surgeries as the director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. When he took the position at age 33, he was the youngest person to ever hold a directorship at the distinguished institution. Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2008, the highest civilian honor in the country, and in 2001, the Library of Congress named him among 89 “Living Legends.”
2. Upbringing — While Trump grew up the son of a multi-millionaire couple, Carson was raised by a single mother in a poor, tough neighborhood in Detroit. In high school, Carson enrolled in the JROTC, and went on to attend college at Yale University. Trump attended the New York Military Academy (NYMA) as a young man, and studied real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
3. Religion — Trump is a Presbyterian, while Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist. Trump recently questioned Carson’s faith during a campaign rally in Florida, saying, “I’m Presbyterian . . . Boy, that’s down the middle of the road folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh Day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”
4. Campaign style — In August, Ben Carson wrote an op-ed explaining that “one should never mistake soft-spokenness for weakness,” referring to his measured style of speaking. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, Carson explained that “composure and calmness” helped him save a great many lives on the operating table. Trump has criticized the surgeon for his demeanor, accusing him of having “super low energy.” Trump is proud of his own rhetorical style, which is much more direct, unafraid of lobbing criticism, and has won him many supporters.
5. Campaign funding — “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists; I’m not using donors,” Trump famously proclaimed during his campaign launch in June, saying he refused to be beholden to special interests. Carson, on the other hand, is taking the traditional fundraising route, and has collected an impressive $20.8 million in the most recent quarter alone — with much of it, but not all, coming from small donors.
6. Minority voters — The Trump campaign got off to a rocky start when the billionaire made some controversial comments about Mexican immigrants, costing him more than one multimillion-dollar business deal. Thus far, Carson has polled higher than any other Republican candidate among black voters, and ranks among the top Republican contenders when it comes to Hispanic voters. Donald Trump polls dead last among Hispanic voters, according to Gallup.
7. Economic plans — As conservatives, Trump and Carson favor many of the same fiscal maneuvers to kick start the flagging Obama economy. Trump’s 5-point plan, however, emphasizes American favoritism in trade in order to bring overseas business back to U.S. shores, while Carson’s plan emphasizes a reduced, 10-percent flat tax for all Americans, which is based on the Biblical tithe.
8. Family — Ben Carson met his wife, Lacena “Candy” Rustin, in college, and they married in 1975. They have three sons, Rhoeyce, Ben Jr., and Murray. Donald Trump married his third wife, Melania, in 2005, and the couple has one child together, Barron William Trump. Trump was married to Marla Maples from 1993–1999, and had one child with her, Tiffany. Trump and his first wife, Ivana, have three children together, Donald, Jr., Ivanka, and Eric.
9. Social Security — According to CNBC, Donald Trump said he no longer wants to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70, as he once said in his book, “The America We Deserve.” Ben Carson, along with Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz, want to gradually raise the current retirement age of 66 for those under 55.
10. Medicare — “Ben wants to knock out Medicare. I heard that over the weekend. He wants to abolish Medicare,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this week, adding that he’s in full support of the federal program. “It’s actually a program that’s worked. It’s a program that some people love, actually,” he added. Asked to respond, Carson told ABC News, “Well, first of all I didn’t say I was going to abolish it, I said it probably won’t be necessary with the system that I have made but I wouldn’t abolish it because some people are wedded to it emotionally.” Elsewhere, Carson has discussed the possibility of replacing Medicare with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
11. Obamacare — On “60 Minutes” Trump has said, “Obamacare’s going to be repealed and replaced.” Carson, on the other hand, has recommended a similar overhaul, but said at a New Hampshire forum, “There’s no question it needs to be replaced before you repeal it,” The Huffington Post reported.
12. Immigration — Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he will deport the estimated 11 million immigrants currently residing in the U.S., however, in an interview with “Face the Nation” in September, Ben Carson seemed skeptical that it could be done. “The logistics of it are difficult. As I’ve said, I’m all ears. If somebody can tell me exactly how you can do that, I would certainly be interested in hearing it.” Carson then went on to talk about cutting off the government “goodies” that incentivize illegal immigration as a more realistic focal point.