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David Rosenberg is chief economist with Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc. and author of the daily economic newsletter Breakfast with DaveThe Globe and Mail

What you see isn't always what you get.

I'm referring to the U.S. election campaign.

I can understand how the population feels about these two candidates — both have the worst unfavorable ratings of all time. But when it comes to government, we invest around policies, not personalities.

While Hillary is the safer bet, she also is the candidate that offers up the least change. Lots of tweaking from the Obama White House.

And seeing as she will likely face a more hostile and Tea Party-hardened GOP-led House, she likely won't end up getting much accomplished.

So four more years of gridlock in exchange for the safer bet.

Related: Your complete guide to U.S. election night

And if Congress went Democrat, one can be reasonably assured that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (and Nancy Pelosi) will dictate the direction and the lurch will be leftward, anti-business, most populist and definitely not equity-market friendly.

If there is a GOP Congress — and the House is key since that is where the bills get passed — then, as I said, four years of nothing (and the numbers favor the GOP even more in 2018).

So maybe the markets catch a relief rally upon a Hillary win, but then reality will set in that it means little in the way of any meaningful policy shift.

Of course, one can always argue that four years of gridlock since 2012 didn't stop the stock market from rallying an additional 50%, but the trailing price-to-earnings multiple then was 15x, not 20x and almost all those gains came in the first two to three years.

As for The Donald, he is the riskier bet. No doubt.

And if the House goes GOP, he will have a free hand to accomplish a lot of change, and Paul Ryan and Chuck Schumer can work together.

At the same time, there are plenty of radical things that neither Congress nor the Constitution will allow Mr. Trump to do (as in immigration and the great Wall of Mexico).

I can see the market P/E multiple compressing on a Trump win, on the uncertainty factor, but it could well set up the buying opportunity we have been waiting for.

We know from history that what you see isn't always what you get.

Dwight Eisenhower won on his war credentials and spent his time in office as the president who focused on domestic transportation infrastructure.

Richard Nixon was an avid Communist chaser as senator to only then establish détente with the Soviet Union ‎as president.

President Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford on the view that the latter was a simpleton on foreign policy and it was the former whose second-term chances were dashed by the Iran hostage fiasco.

Look at Reagan — first thing he does is slap Japan with tariffs and preside over a recession and 20% bear market in his first two years. Only to then oversee six years of phenomenal growth and a near-tripling in the stock market.

What about Bill Clinton? A supposed "lefto" from Arkansas was first met with trepidation by investors in 1992 and for the first two years, equities went nowhere.

Who would have thought that he would be the one to sign the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); be the one to sign the 1996 telecom bill (absolutely epic, allowing for media and cable cross-ownership); deregulate the financial sector; cut taxes; and engage in tougher welfare reforms (three strikes and you're out!).

George W. Bush campaigned as an isolationist and then went on war-against-terror spree.

And what about Barack Obama? Say what you will, but he was viewed initially as a bigger socialist than Bill Clinton, someone who ostensibly was going to nationalize the banks in 2009.

You could never have made the bet that under his tenure, the stock market, like Mr. Clinton, would have tripled. Not to give them the credit, but the reality is that under these two so-called socialists, the S&P 500 tripled.

Like I said, what you see isn't what you get.

I realize passions are running high over this election, but you can't invest based on emotion. Not ever.

And what history teaches us repeatedly is the folly of extrapolating the campaign rhetoric into the future or to pay heed to the consensus which rarely has the story right.


David Rosenberg is chief economist with Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc. and author of the daily economic newsletter Breakfast with Dave.

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