A new TV commercial by President Trump’s reelection campaign touts that the president is “the clear choice” for seniors, who are a key voting bloc in many of the battleground states that will decide the winner of the presidential election.
The ads running on the airwaves in Florida and other crucial swing states as the president courted voters 65 and older on Friday during a stop in Fort Myers in southwest Florida.
"I am honored to be here in Fort Myers to reaffirm my solemn pledge to America’s Seniors: I will protect you, I will defend you, and I will fight for you with every ounce of energy and conviction that I have," the president told the crowd.
And he vowed to keep seniors safe from the coronavirus pandemic, promising that he was "working as hard as I can" so that they "can kiss and hug your children and grandchildren very soon."
Senoirs make up roughtly 20% of the population in Florida, which with 29 electoral votes up for grabs is the largest of the traditional battlegrounds.
The president’s stop came three days after Democratic nominee Joe Biden visited Florida and told a crowd of seniors that Trump views them as “expendable, forgettable.”
And the president’s trip comes as Trump is trying to avoid becoming the first Republican presidential nominee in two decades to lose the 65 and older vote.
Former Vice President Al Gore – who in the 2000 election repeatedly emphasized that he would keep Social Security “in a lockbox” – was the last Democratic presidential nominee to win the senior vote.
Four years ago Trump captured the national vote of those 65 and older by a 52%-45% margin over Clinton, according to exit polls. But fast forward four years and the latest Fox News national poll indicates Biden with a slight 49%-47% edge over the president among seniors. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News national poll released this week showed a larger 54%-44% margin for Biden among voters 65 and older.
One key reason may be the coronavirus pandemic, which is tied to the deaths of nearly 220,000 Americans and has hit seniors particularly hard.
“Seniors are much more impacted by the coronavirus, by their concern about getting it, their concern about what happens if they do get. They’re much more sensitive to it because they’re in the population is most at risk,” noted longtime Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. “They’re focused on coronavirus and the president’s numbers on coronavirus are not strong. Voters generally disapprove of the job he’s doing handling the issue.”
Biden, during a stop Tuesday in heavily populated Broward County in southeast Florida, pointed to comments Trump made last month in Swanton, Ohio, when he argued that the coronavirus "affects virtually nobody" except seniors.
"It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that's what it really affects, that's it," the president said at the time.
“Nobody,” Biden said on Tuesday. “Think about that. Who was he talking about when he said it affects virtually nobody. He was talking about America’s seniors. He was talking about you.”
And speaking directly to voters age 65 and older, the former vice president argued that Trump thinks “you’re expendable, 'forgettable, you’re virtually nobody. That’s how he sees seniors. ... The only senior that Donald Trump cares about … is the senior Donald Trump."
Biden also claimed the president will “undermine the Medicare trust fund and increase overall out of pocket costs for seniors.” And he charged that Trump “says he wants to lower drug prices, but he hasn’t done a single thing to do it.”
The Trump campaign fired back, arguing that “Biden resorted to his worn tactic of lying about President Trump, who has steadfastly protected Social Security and Medicare and who has pledged to always do so.”
Last week, as he was recovering at the White House after being diagnosed and hospitalized for COVID-19, tweeted that seniors are “MY FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD!”
And the announcer in the new Trump campaign commercial highlights that “President Trump protected Social Security and Medicare” and that Trump “lowered drug costs and during his first term Medicare Advantage premiums fell 34%.”
Four years ago Trump narrowly edged out 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Florida. An average of some of the most recent polling in the state shows Biden holding a single-digit lead over the president. In a sign of how important the state is to the president’s reelection, Trump’s spent three days campaigning in the state this week.
“Seniors in Florida are critical to winning the state,” noted Newhouse, who was Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s pollster in the 2012 presidential campaign. “The key voter groups in the state would be seniors and Hispanics. A strong performance among seniors would go a long way towards giving the president an edge in the state.”
And it’s not just Florida. Seniors make up at least 17% of the population in the battleground states of Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire.
The concentration by the two standard-bearers on seniors this week is welcome news to many.
With America dealing with the most devastating pandemic in a century, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression more than 80 years ago, the most intense and widespread protests and unrest over racial inequity in decades, and arguably the most bitter U.S. Supreme Court confirmation battle in recent history, it’s little wonder that some issues critical to seniors that usually dominate presidential elections have been pushed to the side in recent months.
“We’re certainly concerned that our issues have been overshadowed because when these things pass – and they will pass – the fundamental bedrock issues for Americans- things like their health, taking care of aging parents, Medicare, prescription drug prices, Social Security – those things are still going to be with us,” AARP New Hampshire state director Todd Fahey told Fox News.
“It’s really important that the voters understand where each candidate stands on these singularly important issues,” Fahey emphasized. “They are of great important to the nation and the candidates need to speak to all of them.”