Florida’s seniors, the state’s most reliable voters, are shifting away from Trump

Stephen Staruch is exactly the kind of voter who gave Donald Trump a 17-point advantage over Hillary Clinton four years ago in Florida.
The lifelong Republican, who has retired to the state's largest retirement community, The Villages, said he voted for Trump four years ago because it was "more of a vote against Clinton." As a retired UPS manager, he had hope for Trump because his life experience taught him that people “often grow and mature into the job; If you surround them with the right team, they will become a good leader, especially if they are good business people. "
But Staruch's high hopes were quickly dashed, he said this week. "About the housewarming time, when he started lying about the crowd, I had the buyer's remorse."
Now, 67-year-old Staruch is voting for Biden "to get democracy and the rule of law back," and he'll talk about it with anyone who'll listen. “I feel just as committed as when I was 17 when I went to the military in Vietnam. It is what people do because this is our country. "
Polls now show that Florida seniors, who traditionally vote more often than any other age group, have moved from President Donald Trump to former Vice President Joe Biden in significant numbers due to voters like Staruch.
The University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory published a poll of likely voters on October 6. While Biden led Trump among likely Florida voters at 51% to 45%, the lead among those over 65 was 50% for Trump and 47%% for Biden. The same people were asked how they voted years ago and the margin was much bigger, 14 points in Trump's favor.
A Quinnipiac poll published on October 7th found even larger profit margins among voters 65 and over. Biden was 55% to 40% ahead of Trump among voters in Florida over 65, the biggest lead of any age group with the exception of 18- to 34-year-olds, where Biden was at the top by 23 percentage points. According to the poll conducted after the presidential debate, older voters have a 20 percentage point more favorable opinion of Biden than Trump.
The trend seems to be emerging across the country. Last month, a CNN poll found that Biden leads Trump with 21 points - 60% to 39% - among likely voters 65 and over. A poll by NBC News / Wall Street Journal found even greater leeway.
The Pew Research Center estimates that Trump beat Clinton by nine percentage points four years ago in voters 65 and over. By comparison, John McCain was eight points ahead of the Seniors in 2008, and George W. Bush was just four points ahead of the Seniors in 2004.
Seniors switch
Why are these numbers remarkable?
Trump won Florida in 2016 by just over 113,000 votes, but with nearly 330,000 votes. On the basis of the voting card, Trump's campaigning views Florida as a must-see for his re-election, so a significant drop in seniors' votes will require a necessary increase in another group.
"Nobody thinks seniors will come out and 70% vote for Biden," said Michael Binder, who conducted the UNF poll and did similar work for the New York Times and Sienna polls.
“But I definitely think it's reasonable that these numbers will be different than 2016. You have to believe that there are people who voted for Donald Trump because they were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt , and his name wasn't Clinton, but Biden doesn't have those heavy negatives. "
Mike Madrid, an pollster for the Political Committee Against Trump, The Lincoln Project, said the shift in Florida could result in Biden enjoying significant support among senior voters above historical numbers, while Trump has support from more Hispanic voters than Republicans Seen presidential candidates in the past.
"What happens is that the Democrat gets the Republican base vote and the Republican gets the Democrats base vote and the numbers are essentially the same number, which will put them both in the same range," he said.
Republicans and many independent voters 65 and over have been the focus of Trump's grassroots, as evidenced by Governor Ron DeSantis's numerous trips to The Villages and other top deputies for the state's president. Vice President Mike Pence has planned a trip there for Saturday.
Survey Doubters
Village Democratic Party leader Chris Stanley says she is reluctant to pay much attention to the polls that counted undercollected white voters who largely voted for Trump in 2016.
"I'm ignoring the polls this year because Florida will be a 1% state. It has always been a 1% state," Stanley said.
But she, too, has seen the change among her neighbors, most of whom are Republicans.
"We're going to get 50-100 people through the door depending on what the outrageous tweet of the day was," she said. “We've had a steady influx of Republicans, and they're funny when they come in. They proclaim, 'I'm a Republican. I stay a Republican. "And then they say," What can I do to help you get rid of this and this in the White House? "
While she hears from many that they are dissatisfied with Trump's handling of the coronavirus, they are more concerned about the possibility that Trump will eliminate the wage tax, which funds social security, after he passed an executive order in August that allowed the Postponing tax payment for businesses was hurt by the pandemic.
"It's kind of a touch," said Stanley. "It is the danger to their children and their fear that their children will not have retirement that drives people to my door."
Michele Yergin, 70, a former Republican from Ponte Vedra Beach, said she voted for Trump in 2016 because "I thought he was a great businessman," but she was increasingly put off by what she called "his narcissistic behavior" He treated women like he would "fire anyone who stood up against him" and "how he puts people at risk for COVID".
"It was just one thing at a time and it still hasn't stopped," she said. She said she has now registered with no party affiliation and supports Biden "because he has common sense and will surround himself with people who can make good decisions."
Nancy Detert, a longtime Republican senator who now serves on the Sarasota County Commission in a part of the state long known for its conservative policies, said the high-ranking voters she speaks to did not falter four years ago to have.
"These voters are exactly the same as before, and Trump is just as controversial," she said. "The more chaos and the more they are for Trump." She also notes that the same voters "don't forget to show up on election day".
She's skeptical that voters will be honest with pollsters, and she predicts the race in Florida will be as close as it was 20 years ago when Florida was forced to do a recount to see if George W. Bush or Al Gore won.
"We take another look at the year 2000," said Detert. "Anyone who thinks Florida is changing will not happen." It will be bound. "
But Eleanor Sobel, another former senator who represented Hollywood as a Democrat, said she spent hours each day most famously calling senior voters as a member of the Florida Leadership Council for Biden, a telephone bank run by Jon “Bowzer” Bauman as part of the Sha-Na-Na music group.
Sobel said she spoke to hundreds of seniors across the state who received ballots "and I learned from many that they voted for Trump and are now voting for Biden," she said. "They say they are fed up with it."
Bob White, a staunch Trump supporter from Merritt Island and a former Liberty Party candidate for governor, doesn't believe the polls either.
"For me, the president in this age group is better off than four years ago," said White. "We have opened a Trump Victory headquarters on Merritt Island in a former car dealership and they are always busy getting people to vote, converting Democrats to Republicans for the first time, organizing boat parades and rallies." I don't trust any of these polls. "
He also rates the race on the basis of enthusiasm.
Measure enthusiasm
"It's one thing to tell a pollster where you are and another thing to stand out on election day," White said. "If this is a grassroots choice, Donald Trump's grassroots will clearly emerge. The excitement for him is off the charts. Every time you turn there is another event with 300 trucks and motorcycles or 1,000 boats. I just see it not on the Biden side. "
However, Staruch and Stanley said that at The Villages, where Republicans outperform Democrats by more than two to one, the energy among Democrats is higher than ever.
On Wednesday the Villages Democratic Club organized a golf cart rally to email ballots to the Sumter County polling station. It became the biggest parade of the year, with people waving flags in the streets.
"I thought we were about 100 golf carts and we had 400," said Stanley. "We filled two mailboxes with our voting papers."
COVID treatment
Respondents told the Herald / Times that a major reason for the postponement appears to be the pandemic and the president's handling of it. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 250,000 of the 318,000 confirmed deaths from U.S. viruses have occurred in people aged 65 and over.
"Seniors are a very high-risk group," said UNF's Binder. “They are among the most vulnerable in our entire country. And if someone doesn't necessarily take it as seriously as they should, and disregards their own advice from their own CDC, it's pretty clear that some of these people are concerned about it - maybe they have lost friends and loved ones and things of that nature. "
The UNF poll asked people what they think is a bigger problem: the pandemic or the economic impact. Older voters who said public health was their primary concern supported Biden 80%. Of UNF respondents who said the economic impact is most important, 89% were for Trump.
"I mean, these are like partisan registration numbers," said Binder.
Staruch took his "sense of intent" for talking about his Trump defect so seriously that he was interviewed by CNN, the New York Times, and journalists from French and Danish news organizations, and he lets them know, "The party that I knew, no longer exists, ”he said. "Republicans like the world's John McCains and others who came before him were the financial conservatives, but now we're a country with $ 27 trillion in the hole. That's not tax restraint."
He compares it to realigning his wheels.
"I have to do something pretty radical that not only pump air into them, but I have to get them into the store," Staruch said. “We have to realign our democracy. It's so out of whack that it will take a pretty large shift to the left to correct this. And that means for the years to come. "
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@miamiherald.com and @MaryEllenKlas

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