Biden sees opening over Trump with older voters

Joe Biden’s campaign sees a big opening with a key demographic in the general election: senior citizens. 

In 2016, President Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 7 points with voters older than 65-years-old, according to exit polls. But this year, Biden advisers have watched Trump’s support from these voters erode in states like Florida with large senior populations. 

A new CNN poll leaves the Biden campaign salivating. It shows the former vice president leading Trump nationally by 13 points with voters older than 65. It follows another YouGov poll that showed Biden tied with Trump at 49 percent. 

“I think seniors are now going to be a problem for him,” one Biden aide predicted, referring to Trump. “Regardless of which poll you believe, he is doing much better with seniors than [Clinton] which is a big deal and a big part of a winning coalition.”

Even Republicans acknowledge the novel coronavirus pandemic afflicting the nation poses a unique threat to Trump with seniors. Older people are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease.

Trump and his campaign are hoping that he can convince older Americans and voters in general that his administration has responded strongly to the pandemic. But Democrats cast Trump’s response as too late, and think voters will punish him in the fall.

Some GOP strategists say Trump hurt himself by floating the idea that the economy could reopen on Easter Sunday, a position he later backtracked from. They said this gave points to critics who say Trump has underestimated the threat.

“We haven’t done ourselves any favors,” one Republican strategist said.

Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton put it this way: “The more unsteadiness Trump shows coupled with his disregard from norms and institutions, the more I believe he pushes this group into Biden’s corner.”

Another issue Biden’s campaign is ready to pounce upon is talk earlier this year from Trump that suggested he could be open to reducing entitlement spending.

During a Fox News town hall last month, Trump said he had plans to propose cuts to government programs including Medicare. 

“Oh we’ll be cutting,” he said. “We’re also going to have growth like you’ve never seen before.”

White House officials spent the following days walking back Trump’s comments. “Fake news,” Trump’s former press secretary Stephanie Grisham wrote on Twitter. “POTUS was talking about cutting deficits NOT entitlements.”

Democratic strategist Eddie Vale added that Trump has “exacerbated” matters for himself with such comments.

“That is going to hurt him,” he said. 

Another warning for Trump, he added was Biden’s performance with older voters in the Democratic primary. 

Last month in Florida, Biden won the primary overwhelmingly and enjoyed a huge advantage with seniors over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). A National Election Pool pre-election survey showed that 70 percent of voters older than 65 supported him. 

Earlier in the campaign, on Super Tuesday, Biden also swept voters in that age group. Exit polls showed Biden picking up 48 percent of seniors, far surpassing Sanders and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. 

“Biden has performed exceptionally well with older voters in the Democratic primary and I expect that trend would continue with older independent voters and older moderate Republican voters,” Singleton said. “They’re the most reliable voting bloc and data suggests they have an affinity for Biden and normalcy. 

There’s also the personality figure.

Biden, 77 and a senior himself, is popular with older Americans because they just like him, say some opponents.

Sanders sought to cut into Biden’s popularity with seniors by highlighting statements he made on reducing budget deficits that would have considered reforms to Social Security and other programs. The attacks did little to cut into the Biden advantage.

Asked by CBS News why he was trailing Biden with older voters, Sanders replied: “Look, you know why? I’ll tell you why. Because Joe is a nice guy. Okay. He’s a decent person. … People like him.” 

Republicans say Trump can beat Biden by appealing to older voters, particularly on economic issues. 

Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak said much of Biden’s success will be dependent on how the pandemic shakes out in the coming months. 

“If the U.S. gets through the pandemic and the economy begins to recover in [the third quarter,] Trump will gain among all groups, but specifically among seniors,” Mackowiak predicted. 

But the Republican strategist said things will have to change quickly for Trump to capitalize. 

“If the election happened today, I’d be biting my nails,” the strategist said. 


Tags Bernie Sanders Coronavirus Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Michael Bloomberg Stephanie Grisham
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