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Trump, Biden clash at competing TV events

Ed Mills, Raymond James Washington Policy Analyst, joins Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to recap Thursday evening's televised events of President Trump's and Joe Biden's town halls, and much more.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: It was a contentious night in the presidential race. Rather than debate, the two candidates held competing TV events, with President Trump grilled over COVID-19 and his sharing of conspiracy theories, while former Vice President Joe Biden got a gentler reception, while avoiding answering questions on court packing.

Let's bring in Ed Mills now, Washington Policy analyst at Raymond James. Good morning, Ed. I'm sure, like me, you were flipping between the two last night. Did you hear anything, though, that was new that might move the needle for voters who were still undecided?

ED MILLS: Yeah, Alexis, I guess that's always the question. Whenever we have any major event in this election, we are always trying to figure out, how much did the needle move? Ultimately, probably not that much. I do think it was a very helpful set of events for voters getting kind of one-on-one time. I wish it was not at the same time and I didn't have to flip back and forth.

But without the interruptions of the last debate, it really gave an opportunity for candidates to discuss exactly what they were thinking, why they were thinking it, and kind of have a more complete conversation. Probably didn't learn too, too much about some of the policy differences. But I think the biggest difference in flipping back and forth was a true stylistic difference between the two candidates.

BRIAN SOZZI: Ed, the president continued to not disavow fringe conspiracy theories. Does he risk losing those crucial suburban housewife voters?

ED MILLS: Well, if you look at polling data right now, and if it is correct, a couple of areas where the president is struggling the most are with female voters and with senior voters. When you had the event last night and he was not able to disavow QAnon, where he argued that he didn't know what it was, when he had a conversation about when his last test was for COVID prior to his diagnosis and it was a question of, well, maybe I had a test, maybe I didn't have a test the day of the debates, those are all issues that bring up some of the fallout of his COVID response, as well as questions that came out of the last debate related to a disavowing of white supremacy.

When I'm in-- you know, looking at this and I'm saying, is this really what the Trump campaign wants to spend the last two weeks of the election talking about, the argument there is absolutely not. So from that perspective, I don't think it adds to his vote total.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, we've seen a pretty rigorous travel schedule for both of these gentlemen in the weeks leading up to the election. Are there any indications-- and we know that Joe Biden, in most polls, is leading Trump at this point by double digits. But is Trump gaining in any of those key battleground states like Florida, like Pennsylvania that he visited recently?

ED MILLS: It's too soon to tell in some of the polling data just yet. I do think the performance last night by President Trump, in many ways, was continuing to shore up his base of support. I think the president has always viewed this election as trying to do everything he can to get his base out and to convince some voters who didn't vote for him in 2016 to show up this time.

When you look at the travel schedules, to your question, Alexis, the president has been in North Carolina, which is a true swing state, but is also spending time in Georgia as well as Iowa, two states that looked like they were kind of more in the president's camp at the beginning of the year in to the fact that he is playing defense in what is a lean Republican state shows that this is a campaign concerned about first shoring up what was considered to be relatively safe territory.

BRIAN SOZZI: Ed, I think a lot of investors are unsure what to do right now. Let's say that investor out there does, in fact, believe the polls that Joe Biden will win the presidency, can you frame what his first 100 days would look like?

ED MILLS: Yeah, I think this is a real debate. I mean, one thing that we've heard a lot this week is that going back to 1928, the stock market has predicted the outcome of the presidential election 87% of the time. Generally speaking, when the market's up in the three months prior to the Election Day, the incumbent wins. And when it's down, the challenger wins.

So the market's been up. And the real debate-- is that a hidden Trump vote that's out there that the market's pricing in that victory? Or is it a conversation about is it different this time with the fact that massive fiscal stimulus is expected in a first 100 days of a potential Biden administration, especially in a Democratic sweep? The only two other times where the market didn't get it right was 1980, 1968, two years of civil unrest, kind of stagnation with the economy, Iranian hostage crisis. So the debate to me is, should we compare 2020 to very unusual years or 2020 to traditional years?

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I want to talk about this fight we're seeing about misinformation online surrounding the election. We now have Twitter saying it's going to change its policies. Republicans threatening subpoenas, lawsuits. You know, I thought that Twitter and Facebook were not going to be arbiters of truth here.

ED MILLS: Yeah, it's a great question. I think what we've seen is Twitter has been more willing to be kind of stopping this kind of tweets or retweets of certain information. Facebook has certainly seemed to take a more laissez-faire approach. There is a real concern if you're running either of those companies that if there is a Democratic sweep or a Biden presidency and you are seen as not stopping what is viewed as propaganda or disinformation, you could find yourself on the wrong side of some political fights later on.

So I think it is a balance between making sure people can freely express themselves on those platforms and what those platforms have a responsibility for when there is information that has been deemed inaccurate or has been compromised in some way and how that spreads. I don't think it's a debate that we're going to finalize before the election, but it does have longer-term consequences. And that's why I think you see some of the changes in the-- kind of struggling through this debate right now, Alexis.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Ed Mills, Washington Policy Analyst at Raymond James. Good to see you.

ED MILLS: Likewise