Donald Trump likes to fly to Florida to play golf – but currently mostly for election campaign dates. The US President, who is fighting for his re-election, recently traveled to the “Sunshine State” several times to appear in front of his supporters. But there, Trump is pissing off an important group of voters by his handling of the devastating corona pandemic: seniors. And they could make the difference in the retirement paradise of Florida in the presidential election on November 3rd.
“For me, the coronavirus is the big deal because it kills a lot of people and gets worse,” says 69-year-old Gregory Zec, who lives with his wife in Sarasota on Florida’s west coast. Some of his friends and relatives had the virus and some had to be treated in the intensive care unit.
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“I don’t want to be counted among the dead”
“It looks like as many people could die from it by the end of the year as (US soldiers) did in World War II,” says Zec. “I don’t want to be among the dead and I don’t want my wife to be among the dead.”
In the USA, almost 224,000 people have died as a result of the coronavirus, more than 16,300 of them in Florida, where sunshine and dream beaches attract many people of retirement age.
Over-65s are particularly at risk of corona – a group of voters who voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Zec doesn’t want to say who he voted four years ago. But this year, he makes it clear, there is no way he will vote for Trump.
Trump’s events without a mask do not go down well with old people
Zec is not an isolated case. Polls show older voters are turning their backs on Trump. According to a recent poll by the University of Quinnipiac, the Republican incumbent has just 40 percent of Florida’s voters over 65, while his challenger Joe Biden has 55 percent.
Political scientist Eduardo Gamarra warns that the situation is “very unstable”. But there has been movement among voters of retirement age, “and probably because of the pandemic”.
The fact that Trump is again holding election campaign events in front of thousands of supporters, most of whom are not wearing masks, after his own corona infection, should not go down well with worried pensioners.
Biden: “The only senior who is important to Donald Trump is the senior Donald Trump”
It is also questionable whether 74-year-old Trump is doing himself a favor with his constant personal attacks against his rival Biden, who is three years his senior: the President recently published a photo montage on Twitter showing Biden in a wheelchair surrounded by frail seniors. Not exactly a classic strategy for attracting older voters.
In any case, Biden is courting older voters in the final spurt of the election campaign – also in Florida. “The only senior who is important to Donald Trump is senior Donald Trump,” said the ex-vice president last week during a visit to an assisted living facility near Miami. “You are expendable, you are insignificant, you are nobody. That’s how he sees it.”
“Florida’s Seniors Hold the Keys to the White House”
It is no coincidence that both candidates attach so much importance to Florida and its older voters: Florida, with its 14 million voters, has traditionally been a particularly competitive key state that can decide entire presidential elections. In 2000, Republican George W. Bush won less than 540 votes in Florida – and made it into the White House.
In 2016, Trump, who owns several golf clubs in Florida, won here by less than one and a half percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Currently, Biden is ahead of the president in polls, but the lead is slim, every vote counts. Perhaps that is why what Lorraine Tuliano of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans says: “Florida’s seniors have the keys to the White House in their hands.”