Police officers look on during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the City College Of New York on Tuesday
Police officers look on during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the City College Of New York on Tuesday © Getty Images

This is an on-site version of the US Election Countdown newsletter. You can read the previous edition here. Sign up for free here to get it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email us at electioncountdown@ft.com

Good morning and welcome to US Election Countdown.

Today we’re getting into:

  • What college campus turmoil means for Biden

  • Behind the scenes with a grocery billionaire Trump donor

  • Trump-proofing investment portfolios

The protests roiling US university campuses have become a political liability for Joe Biden and the Democrats as Republicans launch political attacks on the president’s failure to quash the unrest [free to read].

While Democrats hoped to seize on opportunities provided by Trump’s trial this past week, the campus unrest has pulled some attention away from the courthouse.

On Tuesday night, university demonstrations escalated with many schools calling in law enforcement. New York Police Department officers in riot gear stormed Columbia University to clear a building that had been seized by protesters the night before.

New York police officers in riot gear storm a building occupied by protesters at Columbia University on Tuesday night
New York police officers in riot gear storm a building occupied by protesters at Columbia University on Tuesday night © AFP via Getty Images

Similar actions at the City College of New York resulted in hundreds of arrests. On the west coast, police broke up violent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters at the University of California, Los Angeles. US media reported that officers in other states used chemical irritants such as tear gas to disperse protesters.

The White House has denounced “dangerous hate speech” displayed by some aggressive protesters, and said demonstrations should be “peaceful and lawful”. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday that “a small percentage of students . . . should not be able to disturb or disrupt the academic experience”.

Biden would deliver a speech on antisemitism on Capitol Hill next week and was being “regularly” updated on the protests, Jean Pierre added.

The president has been hitting the campaign trail hard in recent weeks, aiming to pull ahead in the polls while Donald Trump is stuck in court. But now Biden is on the defensive as Republicans cast him as weak.

“When will the president himself, not his mouthpieces, condemn these hate-filled little Gazas?” Tom Cotton, the Republican senator from Arkansas, told reporters yesterday. Biden “needs to denounce Hamas’s campus sympathisers without equivocating about Israelis fighting a righteous war of survival”, he added.

As Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told the FT’s James Politi: 

You can hardly come up [with] a better foil for Republicans than super-left campus protesters . . . It plays into their broader narrative of the election, which is that Trump is going to come in and clean up the mess.

Campaign clips: the latest election headlines

  • Firebrand Trump ally Marjorie Taylor Greene has moved to oust US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, deepening the party’s civil war. [Free to read]

  • The US Federal Reserve held interest rates steady yesterday, with chair Jay Powell signalling that US borrowing costs were likely to remain higher for longer.

  • Florida’s six-week abortion ban went into effect yesterday, but polls suggest a majority of the state opposes the law. (NYT)

  • As he tries to court young voters, Biden plans to loosen federal marijuana rules.

  • A judge found Trump in contempt, fining him $9,000 for attacking potential witnesses in his Manhattan criminal trial.

Behind the scenes

John Catsimatidis in 2013
Republican donor John Catsimatidis, pictured in 2013, told the FT he was worried about ‘what they’re doing to a former president’ © 2013 Getty Images

Billionaire Republican donor John Catsimatidis expects Trump’s “hush money” trial to boost the former president, not harm him.

The New York City grocery magnate, who co-chaired Trump’s biggest fundraiser so far, told the FT’s Alex Rogers and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson that the “political” trial had a “60-40” chance of helping the former president. 

Trump has been trying to capitalise on the courtroom affair, invoking it to ask for money from both big and small donors in an increasingly alarmist tone. “I could be locked up for life”, Trump told supporters in a campaign message the day his trial kicked off.

Catsimatidis suggested that message was resonating with even Trump’s wealthiest donors. Holding court at a corner table at Smith & Wollensky in New York, the executive said he was worried about “the rule of law” and “what they’re doing to a former president”.

The two New York billionaires have known each other for 45 years but there is at least one area of disagreement between them: abortion. Catsimatidis thinks the decision to end a pregnancy should be between a woman and her doctor, while Trump sees the overturning of Roe vs Wade as a point of pride.

Still, Castimatidis said that, together with the legal cases, voters’ concern about crime and immigration gave Trump an “edge” against Biden, whose time, he thought, “has passed”. He added:

What we would say in the corporate world is you need a new CEO. Trump is a CEO. He calls the shots. He’s like me.


Bar chart of change in S&P 500 in the year before/following a presidential election (%) showing that stocks have generally performed better after an election than in the run-up

Some investors have begun “Trump-proofing” their portfolios to protect against volatility — trade-related, geopolitical or otherwise — stemming from a potential second Trump administration.

Worried wealth managers have become more defensive, making sure their investments are diversified across asset classes and regions. One particular concern is the potential for fresh tariffs under Trump.

“One of the risks of a Trump victory — or clean Republican sweep of the presidency, US Senate and House of Representatives — is a global tariff,” John Roe, head of multi-asset funds at Legal & General Investment Management, told the FT’s David Oakley. “It is possible Trump will put a global tariff of 10 per cent on everyone and 60 per cent on Chinese goods.

Other fund managers are also uneasy about potential Trump policies on trade, public spending and immigration, which they fear could propel inflation.

There are fewer worries about bond and stock markets; fixed-income markets seem to be adjusting already, and US public equity returns don’t differ too much between election and non-election years. The stock market does tend to get more volatile in an election year amid the uncertainty, but there’s usually a rally after a winner is declared.


  • Adults at US universities are mishandling campus protests, exhibiting traits of hysteria and dogmatism that they deplore in the young, says Edward Luce.

  • The Fed could have an awkwardly timed interest rate choice to make on the eve of the election, attracting the type of political spotlight it eschews, writes Victoria Guida. (Politico Magazine)

  • Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett is turning out to be a more moderate conservative than people expected, as she showed during oral arguments in Trump’s immunity case, according to Ruth Marcus. (Washington Post)

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