It isn’t hard to understand why both Democrats and Republicans aggressively pursue older voters in Florida: they are the most likely to vote on Election Day, and the Sunshine State is full of retirees. President Donald Trump performed well among Florida’s seniors (namely, white seniors) when he won the state in 2016, but in an article for The Guardian, reporter Richard Luscombe stresses that the 65-and-older demographic could be Trump’s downfall in Florida in 2020.
“National opinion polls show the 74-year-old president is chasing a substantial deficit among seniors,” Luscombe explains, “and his standing with older voters in the Sunshine State appears equally grim, with less than a month until Election Day.”
Florida is the ultimate swing state. President Barack Obama won Florida in two presidential elections: 2008 and 2012, but in 2016, Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by 1.2% in Florida — which was by no means a landslide but was enough to win him the state’s 29 electoral votes. Polls have been showing the 2020 presidential race to be close in Florida, and the last thing Trump needs is to be alienating older voters in a state that he narrowly won four years ago.
Luscombe notes, “In 2016, Trump trounced Hillary Clinton in Florida by about 17 points among elderly voters, exit polls indicated. The state is considered critical for Trump’s path to victory in 2020, yet this time around, some polls of voters 65 and older suggest it could be a virtual tie between the Republican incumbent and his challenger Joe Biden — while others give the Democrat an even healthier advantage.”
Charles Zelden, a history professor at Nova Southeastern University, told The Guardian that although Trump still enjoys a lot of support at a Florida retirement community like The Villages, his support among Florida seniors isn’t what it was in 2016. Zelden observed, “You go to places like The Villages, and mostly, they’re going to vote for Trump. But it’s gone from most to mostly. That additional 10 to 20% may be enough for Biden to win the I-4 corridor. You win the I-4 corridor, you win Florida. You win Florida, effectively Biden has won the election”
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month found that nationally, Trump is trailing Biden by 27% among seniors. A recent New York Times/Siena poll found Trump trailing Biden by 11% among Florida voters who are 65 or older; other Florida polls, however, have shown the race to be much closer among senior voters.
A key factor in Trump’s weakening support among Florida seniors is his response to the coronavirus pandemic. But according to Chris Stanley, president of the Democratic Club of The Villages, older Biden supporters in Florida are opposing Trump for many other reasons as well.
“They’re turned off by him,” Stanley told The Guardian. “They’re concerned for their Medicare, their social security, of course. But they can’t stand the hate, the vitriol. They’re considering Biden because of the way Trump behaves.”