Biden makes inroads with Trump’s 2016 seniors

Published 10:30 am Friday, October 30, 2020

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By Jack Bernard

Bernard is a retired corporate executive.

Many observers have been surprised that Trump’s base has stayed loyal as he has blundered his way through the last four years. For example, 52% of GOP voters still believe the nation to be “headed in the right direction” while only 8% of Democrats are of this opinion. With few exceptions, Trump’s approval ratings have been around the 40% level for his entire term. Currently, 41% support him while his disapproval rate is 53%.

Although the Trump base has stuck with him, there’s one group that has changed their support to Joe Biden and the Democrats — seniors. Obviously, Trump’s poor leadership regarding the COVID-19 epidemic, which medically affects seniors much more then others, is a major cause.

Trump won those over 55 by 13% in 2016, per Ipsos surveys. He’s now losing to Biden, 47% to 46%.  The same is true in a number of the battleground states where Trump won seniors by margins of 10-29% back in 2016. Trump is now losing by 10% in Wisconsin. The candidates are tied in Florida, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  A CNN poll discovered much the same thing with seniors, about a quarter of Americans who vote. It found Biden was ahead by 21% with seniors over 65. A big change from 2016, when Trump led Hillary by 5%. Further dampening Trump’s chances, 93% of those polled over 65 had made up their minds. Much of Trump’s loss in support among the elderly can be attributed to his poor handling of the pandemic, which hits them hardest and is the most important topic on people’s minds and in social media. But Trump’s stances on entitlements have also hurt him.

Most seniors are dependent on Medicare and Social Security. These are programs the GOP has long attacked as fiscally irresponsible. Reagan called Medicare “socialism.” In its October 2020 edition, AARP presents the positions of each candidate on issues of importance to older Americans. Via a live phone call, the candidates were allowed to give their views, uncensored or commented upon. Even with this “softball” approach, Trump completely misses the ball. 

When asked about his desire to “terminate the payroll tax,” the key to entitlement funding, Trump talks about his Aug. 8 executive order (i.e. having a temporary tax deferral, to be paid back after the election). He never says he will support payroll tax if reelected. When asked if he will protect Medicare from cuts, he changes the subject to drug pricing. He again talks about his recently issued EOs, never explaining why he waited until just before the election to issue them or why he made no effort to propose a drug pricing bill to Congress in the last four years. He says in the future “I’m not dealing with Congress on it.” He never indicates his position on benefit cuts.

When directly asked, he also does not indicate he will do anything to unite the nation, a major concern of seniors, per AARP polling. Instead, he egotistically talks about job numbers and “how successful we are.” When asked if it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure nursing homes are safe from the pandemic, Trump says yes. But incredibly, he then criticizes a Democratic Governor for his response while never admitting to any responsibility of his own for the outrageous number of long-term care facility deaths. Trump then wraps up his remarks by talking about “mail-in” ballots, which are used by many seniors. Ignoring the fact that he uses an absentee in Florida, Trump states mail-in ballots are “very dangerous.” He then indicates without proof that seniors want to go in person to cast their ballots due to “security of the vote.” Trump’s answers time and again go back to how well the economy was before the pandemic and how many jobs he created. Factually, pre-pandemic he created fewer than Obama. But more importantly, his answers to AARP are either platitudes about “cherishing” Medicare or regard subjects of minor importance to the elderly. 

In my state, over 10% of seniors over 70 who get COVID-19 die from it, as do over 20% of those over 80. But Trump says you should not let COVID affect your life. It is little wonder that Trump has lost the votes of seniors.