Neither candidate can prevail without support from most reliable voters.
Senior citizens will decide who the next president of the United States will be. Seniors, those 65 and over, long have been a powerful voting bloc. Given the peculiar context of this year’s election, their vote will be the difference-maker.
Seniors vote in presidential elections at the rate of 70%-plus. They consistently show up more than any other age group. The current senior population is growing as Baby Boomers, who are often are more liberal, continue to join its ranks. In swing states, such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina, seniors vote in even higher percentages than their national average. Even in these trying times, seniors will find a way to vote. They will take the time to learn to vote by mail and many still will vote in person. Seniors will vote in November in their typical numbers when some other groups may not.
Over the past several decades, Republican presidential candidates generally have won the senior vote. Only Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Gore were able to win seniors by slight margins in their bids for the White House. In 2016, Donald Trump won the senior vote over Hillary Clinton by nearly double digits. Seniors were not particularly fond of Clinton as a candidate and many even in her own party cast protest votes. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is much more appealing to seniors. They embrace that Biden is unpolished like Trump but is less harsh in his demeanor.
Therefore, Biden has been faring much better with seniors than Hillary Clinton did. National poll averages have Biden in a dead heat with Trump with this age group. Seniors question the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic. Senior support of Trump particularly softened during the height of the shutdowns, including in Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and especially Wisconsin where some polls had Biden up around 10 points over Trump with seniors.
Seniors have been the most vulnerable to the impacts of the coronavirus. They are more likely to personally suffer ill health, and see their friends struggle and even die. They miss physically interacting with their kids and grandkids. While seniors are health conscious, they also care about the shutdown of the economy. About a quarter of seniors still work and many rely on nest eggs invested in the stock market. Seniors worry about their children losing their jobs and homes.
As the panic over Corona slows and the economy begins to recover, there are indications that seniors’ support of Trump will bounce back. As the country continues to experience social unrest and some Democrats speak of “defunding” police departments, many seniors will migrate back toward Trump because they tend to be pro-law-and-order.
Biden has to be careful in choosing his running mate if he does not want to scare away large swaths of senior support. Seniors care about the vice-presidential pick and are more apt to want a moderate choice and one who is ready to lead. If Biden goes too far left or too inexperienced with his running mate, many seniors, even those who voted for him in the primaries, will think twice before giving him their votes in November.
The race in 2016 came down to close finishes in just three states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump was able to pull off a victory over heavily favored Clinton largely due to his strong support from senior citizens. Trump needs that same support in 2020. Even slight Trump erosions or Biden inroads with seniors will make the difference in the election.
So, if you want to know who is going to win in November, just keep watching what senior citizens are saying and doing. They will be the deciding factor in 2020.