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High-Stakes Debates Are No Laughing Matter for Investors


It is always interesting to see which quip or snappy retort delivered in a presidential debate will take on a life of its own and come to characterize the entire 90-minute bout. In the first debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama last week, it was a passing reference to Big Bird that went viral. While last night's battle between the vice presidential candidates looks set to send Laughing Joe Biden to the history books.

"Great debate doesn't always make for a lot of movement of the needle in the polls," says Bob Wiedemer, managing director at Absolute Investment Management and the co-author of the book The Aftershock Investor. While he thinks both sides probably solidified their support, he's ''not so sure'' that the VP candidates moved anybody in the middle.

As for Tuesday's rematch of high-stakes TV at Hofstra University, pundits say the pressure is on — and up — for the presidential candidates. The President has already said he was ''too polite'' the first time around and is widely expected to take a more aggressive stance. While the last thing Mitt Romney can afford to do is stumble and break his newfound momentum.

While Wiedemer is the first to admit he is not a political analyst, he does point out the risks in trying to jump the gun in a tight race. While the lopsided performance in the first debate saw defense stocks rising and hospital stocks falling the morning after, Wiedemer says it's probably better to avoid those kinds of plays for now.

"I think you really gotta wait. I mean, the reality is, as much as Romney did pull up quite a bit, the idea that he's close to winning is very different," he says, adding the he wouldn't be betting on a lot of stocks until the results of what's expected to be a tight race.

And as much as this fund manager, economist, author and self-admitted wonk enjoys numbers and data himself, he says it's a trap the candidates should avoid. "If you get into detail, a lot of people won't like that. They may say they want details, but it's also a good way to lose voters."

Obama and Romney will square off in a town hall-style debate next Tuesday, then again in Florida the following Monday, where they will tackle issues surrounding foreign policy.

Related: Biden and Romney Slung Plenty of "Malarkey" in VP Debate