Elon Musk has a lot to lose — or gain — based on who wins the presidential election

  • Elon Musk has been flexing his power as a political influencer in recent years.

  • Whoever wins the White House could drastically impact the billionaire’s businesses.

  • A political strategist told BI Musk needs to “be careful” what he wishes for in the next election.

In recent years, Elon Musk appears to have gone from lightly flirting with politics to having a full-blown love affair with growing his influence in Washington.

As the presidential election inches closer and the billionaire businessman continues teasing the idea of a Trump endorsement, it’s becoming clear that Musk has a lot at stake depending on who next leads the country.

While Musk hasn’t publicly endorsed any candidate, Business Insider previously reported he bonded with fellow billionaires over a shared distrust of Democrats and privately discussed how best to defeat them in this year’s election.

According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, Musk has also talked with the Trump campaign about taking on a potential advisory role if the former president returns to the White House.

A representative for the Trump campaign declined to comment on The Journal report but acknowledged that Silicon Valley elites like Musk have lined up to support Trump’s reelection campaign.

It has been widely reported and is demonstrated in a number of ways that many of the nation’s most important leaders in technology and innovation are concerned with the damage done to their industry by Biden‘s failures to handle our economy and his moves to overburden innovators with government bureaucracy and unrelenting regulation,” Brian Hughes, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, told BI in a statement.

While Musk is increasingly flexing his political power, whoever wins the White House could drastically impact the billionaire and his businesses. Here’s how things could shake out for Musk under a second Trump administration versus a Biden win.

Elon under Trump

Musk previously served on business advisory groups under the first Trump administration but pulled out of the role over disagreements with Trump’s 2017 decision to leave the Paris climate accord.

If he were to take on a more formal role in a hypothetical second Trump term, Musk would be taking a gamble on what’d be best for his numerous multi-billion-dollar businesses, Bradley Tusk told BI.

Tusk is a venture capitalist and political strategist whose consulting firm advises startups in highly regulated industries. If he were advising Musk now, Tusk said he’d tell him: “You’ve got to really be careful what you wish for — for a bunch of reasons.”

Under Trump, Tusk said tax cuts and deregulation could lead to a boom for Tesla, X, and SpaceX — especially given Trump’s prior push to develop a Space Force. This could also come with a massive increase in political cache but possibly decreased stability in the markets, which Musk relies on to maintain his wealth and power.

“There is the potential to really have a tremendous amount of influence within Trump’s administration,” Stacey Lee, a law and ethics professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, told BI. “And when you look at the hallmarks of what Trump really respects — he’s popular, he has a management style that is more singular in its voice — these are all of the things that Trump really admires, and so does Musk.”

“In that regard,” she said, “they may be rather odd kindred spirits.”

Elon under Biden

In a world where Biden is elected again, Musk might not have the influence he appears to crave, but Tusk said he’d have something that markets and companies rely on for strong growth: stability.

“Musk just got a $55 billion pay package approved under Joe Biden as President — right now, his life’s pretty good,” Tusk said. “And now we have the choice of a president who genuinely believes in clean energy and someone who actively despises it. So, for those Tesla shareholders, it’s a lot better for them if Joe Biden’s president. And they just gave Elon $55 billion to do what’s best for the company.”

However, Lee told BI that a second Biden administration would also be prone to more regulation and pro-union policies, neither of which is very attractive to Musk as a businessman.

“Biden is very traditional in terms of his policies. He is committed to raising corporate taxes,” Lee said. “Under Trump, we saw them go from 35% to 21%, and now Trump is saying, ‘Hey, if I get in, I’ll take it down to 20.’ I think that would be music to Musk’s ears.'”

A second Trump term could backfire for Musk

“My initial instinct — I think everybody’s — would be like, ‘Oh, of course, it’d better for Musk under Trump.’ But I think ultimately, it’d be much worse,” Tusk said.

While Musk might be seduced by the allure of amassing even more power, Tusk said it’s a double-edged sword with Trump.

Tusk said Biden doesn’t think of Elon as a rival — he probably doesn’t think about him at all. But with Trump, as has happened with so many of his one-time allies, his affection for Musk could suddenly flip, making the Tesla CEO a target for his ire.

“On the Trump side, Musk needs to be careful and not go headlong into this. As seductive as it might seem, it really ends badly for basically everybody,” Tusk said. “And all the things that he values, the things that sort of makes him happy — the attention and relevance — are the same things that make Trump happy.”

“And the one guy you can’t win a head-to-head war with is the President of the United States,” he added.

Musk and Biden campaign representatives did not respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.

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