rain.png
Thursday May 28th, 2020 2:39AM

Trump eyes older voters in Florida for any sign of faltering

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SUN CITY CENTER, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump's path to reelection runs through places like Sun City Center, a former cow pasture south of Tampa, Florida, that's now home to a booming retirement community. But some residents in this conservative swath of America's premier battleground are growing restless.

Irvin Hilts is among them. The 72-year-old retiree voted for Trump in 2016 but has grown frustrated with the tumult surrounding his administration. His support for Trump collapsed entirely amid the coronavirus pandemic, which Hilts blames the president for mishandling.

“I don’t think Donald Trump is doing a very good job at all," Hilts said. "Changes his mind too often, leaving too much up to the states when the federal government should be handling more of it.”

Such sentiment could damage Trump's bid to keep the White House. Trump has virtually no path to victory without winning Florida, and older voters are key to that effort. Older voters make up an outsize share of the voting population in the state, where Trump defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by just over 1 percentage point in 2016. Nationally, Trump carried voters 65 and older in the state by 9 percentage points, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

Some Republicans warn that could be tough for Trump to repeat as the public health and economic fallout of the pandemic deepens.

“They were willing to look past his tweets and consider their 401(k)s,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who advised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential campaign. “That message worked until the pandemic caused the market crash.”

Any erosion of support among seniors could doom Trump if this November’s election is as close as four years ago. A trio of Midwestern battlegrounds — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — feature sizable aging populations. Arizona, another state that Democrats hope to flip in 2020, is home to a growing number of retirees.

But as is often the case during close elections, it could all come down to Florida.

As she sat in a Sun City Center cafe on a recent day, Jan Hubble was hyperaware that many of the other diners who were seated a respectful distance away were Trump supporters. She made clear she was not one of them.

“I do not support him,” the 67-year-old retired nurse said. “But it has nothing to do with the pandemic. At this point in time, he may be doing the best he can. But he could be doing everything perfectly, and I still wouldn’t vote for him.”

But others said they haven't tempered their support for Trump at all; in fact, they've increased it.

“I wasn't a Trump supporter until this,” said 83-year-old Jim Baldwin, referring to the pandemic. He said he voted for Clinton in 2016. Now he's voting for Trump. “I think he's doing all that can be done.”

Still, Trump's team is closely following any sign of faltering support among seniors and other core constituencies.

In a series of recent meetings, top advisers briefed the president that he was currently losing the race to Democrat Joe Biden and urged him to discontinue his daily task force briefings, according to five administration and current and former campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about private discussions. Trump protested, citing high TV ratings, but aides said that seniors, the largest viewing group, were being increasingly unsettled by the president’s erratic behavior, false theories and fights with reporters.

Trump quit the briefings after suggesting injecting disinfectant to battle the disease. But a news conference Monday abruptly ended after another flash of anger at reporters.

Trump once held massive rallies largely attended by baby boomers and seniors, who treated them like rock concerts. With those events scuttled because of the pandemic, the campaign has largely turned to online events, which have limited reach to seniors. The campaign has discussed trying to target digital events for older Americans, while the White House has begun highlighting the president’s accomplishments for seniors.

Standing in the ornate East Room earlier this month, Trump surrounded himself with health officials as he signed a proclamation declaring May to be “Older Americans Month.”

“The virus poses the greatest risk to older Americans,” said Trump, vowing to protect them. He has also reiterated his pledge not to touch social safety net programs while the administration has launched efforts to safeguard nursing homes, which have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

“President Trump and his administration remain focused on protecting our most vulnerable citizens, including our nation’s senior citizens,” said campaign spokeswoman Sarah Matthews. “Seniors want the peace of mind knowing that their government is doing everything in its capacity to care for them and the Trump administration has taken countless measures to ensure the safety and well-being of seniors during this critical time.”

But in Biden, the 73-year-old Trump is facing a rival who has also shown strength among seniors. The presumptive Democratic nominee, who is 77, won the support of 55% of Democratic voters age 65 and older, according to AP VoteCast surveys conducted in 17 states during this year's primaries. No other Democrat earned more than 14% support from this group.

Trump's campaign is focusing on driving Biden's negatives up and plans to release a new ad campaign this week. But there are questions about whether such efforts will be as effective this year as they were in 2016 against Clinton.

“One of the reasons Trump did well with seniors in 2016 was because a lot of seniors really disliked Clinton,” Conant said. “He needs to make Biden as disliked.”

And some voters, like Hilts, have those doubts about Biden. As he waited outside a barber shop to get his hair cut for the first time in weeks, Hilts shook his head. While he's not voting for Trump, he's not sure he'll vote for Biden, either. It will depend on who he picks as vice president.

“I might just sit it out, based on the lesser of two evils,” he said.

___

Lemire reported from Washington.

___

Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump eyes older voters in Florida for any sign of faltering
President Donald Trump’s path to reelection runs through places like Sun City Center in Florida that’s now home to a booming retirement community, but some residents are growing restless
6:38AM ( 20 minutes ago )
House to vote Friday on more virus aid, despite GOP skeptics
The Democratic-controlled House is pressing ahead with votes on another massive rescue bill that would pump almost $1 trillion to states and local governments, renew $1,200 cash payments for individuals, and extend a $600 weekly supplemental federal unemployment benefit
6:33AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Europe relaxing virus restrictions but cases flare elsewhere
European nations are moving ahead with relaxing border controls and resuming sports as the spread of the coronavirus has slowed
6:23AM ( 35 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Tensions rise as Texas governor readies to lift more rules
Texas is charging toward another phase of reopening next week
12:07AM ( 6 hours ago )
Trump says he'll replenish stockpile for future pandemics
President Donald Trump says he intends to prepare the country for future pandemics by restocking the national stockpile
12:04AM ( 6 hours ago )
Hong Kong shop offers 'tear gas' flavor ice cream
Tear gas is among the new flavors at a Hong Kong ice cream shop
11:16PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Marshall struggles to unite GOP establishment in Kansas race
Roger Marshall’s critics on the political right are working to hobble the western Kansas congressman’s bid for the U.S. Senate
5:44PM ( 13 hours ago )
In Pennsylvania, Dem governor aims to contain GOP revolt
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is struggling against a Republican revolt over his stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns
3:17PM ( 15 hours ago )
Trump: Virus shows supply chains should be moved from China
President Donald Trump says the coronavirus pandemic highlights the importance of U.S. manufacturing and moving supply chains out of China, a rival he blames for not doing enough to slow the virus
3:09PM ( 15 hours ago )
AP Elections
Rookie who won seat vows to stop 'socialist-style' policies
Political newcomer Mike Garcia's win over Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith represents a rare victory for Republicans in heavily Democratic California
9:18PM ( 1 day ago )
Republican wins House seat in heavily Democratic California
A Republican has captured a vacant U.S. House seat north of Los Angeles with support from President Donald Trump
7:40PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Interview: Pelosi: Americans 'worth it' on $3T virus aid
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is defending the $3 trillion price tag on Democrats’ pandemic relief package as what’s needed to confront the “villainous virus” and economic collapse
6:26PM ( 1 day ago )
General Election News
AP Courtside: Fear of bribery invoked in telephone arguments
The Supreme Court justices have invoked fears of bribery and chaos to suggest they think states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular vote winner in the Electoral College
11:26AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Courtside: Phone arguments on electors shunning Clinton
The first case before the Supreme Court in Wednesday’s phone arguments involves three Washington state electors who in 2016 voted for Colin Powell for president rather than the state’s vote winner, Hillary Clinton
9:00AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Courtside: Last day of phone arguments is about electors
It's the last day of phone arguments by the Supreme Court
8:01AM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
North Dakota governor funds PAC targeting fellow Republican
Republican North Dakota Gov. Burgum is putting $195,000 of his own money into a political action campaign that has set its sights on defeating one of the most powerful members of the Legislature and a member of his own party
3:38PM ( 1 day ago )
Paul Manafort released from prison due to virus concerns
Paul Manafort has been jailed since June 2018 following his conviction as part of the special counsel’s Russia investigation
2:50PM ( 1 day ago )
Biden plans to stay home, testing limits of virtual campaign
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has no foreseeable plans to resume in-person campaigning amid a pandemic that is testing whether a national election can be won by a candidate communicating almost entirely from home
9:50PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
House to vote Friday on more virus aid, despite GOP skeptics
The Democratic-controlled House is pressing ahead with votes on another massive rescue bill that would pump almost $1 trillion to states and local governments, renew $1,200 cash payments for individuals, and extend a $600 weekly supplemental federal unemployment benefit
6:33AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Europe relaxing virus restrictions but cases flare elsewhere
European nations are moving ahead with relaxing border controls and resuming sports as the spread of the coronavirus has slowed
6:23AM ( 35 minutes ago )
5 things to know today - that aren't about the virus
Here are a few things to know about the day’s nonvirus news from The Associated Press
5:58AM ( 1 hour ago )
Tokyo Olympic CEO: Games next year may not be 'conventional'
The CEO of next year's Tokyo Olympics says the postponed games might not look like what fans are accustomed to
5:54AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Baltic nations reopen borders to each other
The prime ministers of the three Baltic nations say the first coronavirus wave is under control in their region
5:54AM ( 1 hour ago )