Oct 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's seniors moment

Illustration of two elderly people walking away from from a Trump 2020 sign

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Something wild and unexpected unfolded in the second half of President Trump's term, and now is accelerating: Elderly Americans, who helped elect him, have swung sharply against him. 

Why it matters: National and state polls show a total Trump collapse among Americans 65 and older.  If this chasm remains, it could help bring the whole Republican power structure down with Trump.

In what has been a 50-50ish nation, it's stunning to see polling gaps this wide:

  • In a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out Sunday, Joe Biden led Trump by 27 points among seniors (62% to 35%).
  • In a CNN/SSRS poll out yesterday, similar story — 21 points (60% to 39%).

This is a group Trump won by seven points in 2016.

  • The same gap shows up in state polling, including the critical battlegrounds of Florida and Pennsylvania.

The movement predates the virus. CNN polling guru Harry Enten notes that a year ago, Biden was up 11 points over Trump with seniors in a CNN poll.

  • 💡 The main pre-pandemic reasons were health care and his strength with women, Axios' Alexi McCammond and Margaret Talev wrote in May.

Republicans believe the big reason for the current chasm is the coronavirus, which has hit seniors far harder than any age group. A former senior White House official who remains close to the team told Axios:

  • "[A] few of us screamed from the rooftops to them about in March. Who [cares] what anyone else thinks? If you can't win seniors, you can't win."
  • "And, if you don't take something that is killing old people seriously, you will lose seniors."

Between the lines: More women vote than men. More women go to college than men. More women than ever are running for election and winning. And more women than ever are turning on Trump and the GOP.

The bottom line: Younger, white men alone do not a victory make. So the 65+ trend represents a clear and present danger to the vitality and viability of the GOP.

  • Trump has undermined himself with old people, women and minorities.
  • National Journal's Josh Kraushaar tweeted yesterday: "That’s going to be the story of this election: Pivotal Trump voting bloc in 2016 becoming part of the Biden base."
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