(Editor's note: Yesterday, we took a look at how to invest if Obama wins the election in November. To read that article, go here.)
Though President Barack Obama leads the latest polls, it's too soon to write Mitt Romney off as a winning candidate. And if Romney wins this coming election, then the investing landscape is going to look much different than it has under Obama.
But what should investors specifically do to get the most out of a Romney-led regime?
Stocks to buy
While no policy is ever set in stone, Romney has made a few things clear about his platform. Based on his subtle and not-so-subtle hints, certain industries will have his favor.
It's interesting. While President Obama's health care overhaul has prompted a great deal of discussion about the future of health care companies, there's not a lot of consensus about the effects that Obamacare will have on them. Specifically, hospitals will likely treat more insured patients, but the new plan also comes with more costly Medicare red tape.
So which stocks are most likely to benefit from the possibility of Romney's presidency and which would almost assuredly lead to a repeat of Obamacare? The two stocks I like are Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Stryker (NYSE: SYK).
Should the current Medicare plan become a reality, the so-called payment "donut hole" it could create would ultimately be taken out of Pfizer's margins. The thing is, this downside is already largely priced into shares. If Romney can unwind those Medicare plans, then that potential downside would be taken back out of the stock's price.
As for Stryker, the health care overhaul also included an excise tax 2.3% in manufacturers of medical equipment makers. No, it's not a huge amount, but when margins are already thin as they are for Stryker, these nickels and dimes can have a relatively big impact. Like Pfizer, the worst-case scenario is largely priced into the shares' current value.
Romney hasn't been highly-vocal or highly-specific on the matter, but there's no doubt he's far more coal-friendly than Obama could ever pretend to be. Add in the fact that so many coal stocks have been beaten down lately, and their potential upside doubles.
Romney hasn't minced words about overturning regulations imposed during President Obama's first term. Specifically, he's taking aim at the Dodd-Frank rule that seems to be nagging financial stocks like JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC). Bank of America may continue to founder with or without Dodd-Frank out of the way, but most financial conglomerates will be free to go back to "business as usual" -- which is making big money, at least until the next financial crisis. Moreover, Romney would likely halt the 4,000 new regulatory rules Obama has proposed but hasn't yet implemented, which are also preemptively weighing financial stocks down.
But which bank stocks specifically stand to benefit (or not lose) if Romney wins and is able to keep dividend rates in check? Take your pick. One of several good stocks from the banking industry is New York Community Bancorp (NYSE: NYB), which boasts a yield of 7%.
Barring any changes between now and the end of the year, the tax rate on dividends is slated to jump from the current 15% to as much as 39.6% beginning in 2013. President Obama has stated he has no intention of extending this Bush-era tax break, while Romney has made it clear he'd do everything he could to keep those dividend payments taxed at 15%. Needless to say, this could be a deal-breaker for many income-oriented investors.
Stocks to sell
All that being said, it's not like everything Romney intends to do is going to be a boom for all businesses. Some areas are poised to struggle with Romney at the helm.
As was already noted, the introduction of Obamacare had the potential to be positive for a few health care stocks. Namely, certain insurers and hospitals stood to gain from the flood of mandated and insured customers/patients. Two of them are Community Health Systems (NYSE: CYH) and Tenet Healthcare Corporation (NYSE: THC).
Why would these two health care providers be so special under Obamacare? Because every patient they treated would be insured, therefore making it eventually impossible to eat losses stemming from non-payers. With guaranteed payment in jeopardy but the legal requirement to treat all patients still intact, both of these stocks -- and dozens of others -- would be back in the same write-off boat they were in before President Obama's health care plan became law if Romney is elected.
The China factor
Also, while it may seem a little ironic that Obama is more international-trade-friendly than Romney is, companies that do a lot of business with China are at risk if Romney becomes president. The Republican candidate supports a weak dollar policy, which makes it cheaper for Chinese buyers to buy U.S. goods and more expensive for Americans to by Chinese goods. Critics of the idea suggest Romney doesn't realize many U.S. businesses rely on China for low-cost supplies and components to efficiently run their own operation. Add in Romney's penchant for downright bashing rhetoric regarding China, and what we may get is an outright trade war.
Risks to Consider: While candidates may say one thing to get elected, they may end up doing something else altogether while in office. Placing these bets without monitoring the policies that drove them in the first place could mean trouble down the road.
Action to Take --> It's dangerous to count on the outcome of a presidential election. And, it's also wrong to be thinking about any of these themes as pure post-election "trades." It could take up to a year -- or more -- for Romney's political ideologies to trickle down into the values of individual stocks. Think of them sooner than later, however, because Washington's leadership surely affects how successful this nation's corporations can be.