President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are set to square off Tuesday evening in the first of three presidential debates, which could have major implications for the 2020 election and financial markets.
The stakes are high as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the two candidates to an atypical socially distanced campaign trail. While Trump has still managed to appear in front of raucous crowds, Biden has kept his in-person audiences to a minimum.
Tuesday's debate will also give investors a chance to position themselves in the sectors and stocks poised to do well depending on which candidate wins.
“We think the head-to-head polling prior to even the first debate is subject to potentially significant revision after tens of millions of voters have their first chance to see the two candidates together,” wrote a team of New York-based Wells Fargo Securities analysts led by Christopher Harvey.
Biden holds a 6.1-point lead in the national polls, according to RealClearPolitics, although that margin is down to 3.6 points in key battleground states. His lead has narrowed significantly from the 9.3 points nationally and 6 points in key battleground states on July 26, with 100 days to go until the election.
In addition, the firm believes that lead will shrink further ahead of Election Day. The analysts also think Trump’s “secret voters” are not accounted for, meaning the race is already tighter than it appears.
Investors looking to position for a Trump win should look at financials, metals, energy and industrials, the analysts said. Meanwhile, a Biden win could benefit growth and tech stocks.
Trump in 2016 outperformed the Sept. 20 RealClearPolitics average in the six battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by 4 points. He won all six states despite the average showing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tied or leading in five.
The analysts see a number of issues playing into Trump’s favor that may not be showing up in the polls, including the Supreme Court nomination, gun ownership and the African American vote.
A 2016 exit poll conducted by CNN found 70% of voters thought the Supreme Court was a key issue and those who said so favored Trump 49 to 47.
A separate CNN exit poll from 2018 found 46% of voters lived in a household that owned at least one gun and voted Republican by a 61%-to-36% margin, according to the analysts. Of the 5 million Americans that became first-time gun owners during the first seven months of this year, 40% were women.
Additionally, the polls show Biden leading among African American voters by 65 points, down from Clinton’s 80-point margin in 2016.
The analysts also see off-campus learning due to COVID-19, a smaller independent vote and voter registration trends favoring Trump.
“Regardless of the winner we remain bullish based on COVID developments, Fed accommodation, and easy 1H21 comps,” the analysts wrote, noting that a contested election could cause a 10% selloff.