James Hill hardly leaves his home in Philadelphia anymore, so this is where the 71-year-old Republican sat as he watched President Donald Trump return to the White House after his COVID-19 hospitalization and tell Americans not to fear the virus.
Hill knows better.
Every few days, he returns to the kitchen table in Chestnut Hill to write another note of condolence commemorating a friend of a loved one he has lost to this deadly disease, 10 to this day.
“Telling us not to be afraid of the coronavirus when so many people in the White House are contracting it is ridiculous,” said Hill, a military veteran and retired investment banker. “I am embarrassed that my party nominated him and America elected him. I wouldn’t even want to sit down to have dinner with him at this point.
Pennsylvania seniors voted for Trump four years ago, but his poor management of the pandemic made it harder to win them this time around. Numerous polls show the president is losing ground with them here and in other swing states. Combined with the erosion of his support among white voters, this could make it extremely difficult to take over Pennsylvania – and get re-elected.
A survey from Quinnipiac University conducted after the Presidential debate of September 29 found that voters who have reached retirement age in Pennsylvania, a key state of the battlefield, prefer Democratic candidate Joe Biden to Trump by 19 percentage points. This lead has increased by five points since the beginning of September for Quinnipiac investigation. Seniors believe the former vice president is better equipped to deal with the pandemic, stimulate the economy and heal a country still reeling from a summer of protests against systemic racism.
Trump earlier this month tweeted a video recorded on the White House lawn, where he looks at the camera and proudly declares “I am a senior!” After calling older people “my favorite people in the world.”
But even if, at 74, Trump can convince older voters that he is like them and that he would be a more effective leader in his second term, it will be a challenge for him to overcome their beliefs about his character. The last of Quinnipiac vote shows that the majority of Pennsylvania seniors see Trump as a dishonest man who doesn’t care about average Americans.
“He has been unfaithful to his business partners and his wives,” said Hill, a moderate Republican who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 after Republican John Kasich’s primary campaign failed and now plans to vote for Biden. “He has no allegiance to anyone but himself. I find the president repulsive.
Republican candidates generally carry older voters with comfortable margins. The last Democrat to run for president and win the support of a majority of older people was Al Gore, who made the protection of popular retirement programs like social security and medicare a mainstay from his 2000 campaign.
Former state Republican Party chairman Rob Gleason ignored signs Trump was having issues with the elderly and said he expected older voters to “come home ” at the end.
“The closer we get to an election, the more likely it is that people will pick up on issues they are experiencing, like law and order and the economy,” Gleason said. “Seniors are very interested in these issues, and they believe in the president. “
But more than a dozen seniors surveyed statewide said Trump’s erratic behavior and rude comments over the past 3.5 years had worn them out. Repeatedly downplaying the threat posed by the virus has been the last straw.
Joni Phillips, 80, admitted Biden was not his first choice, but said she would take just about anyone over Trump. Now she has a Biden flag and a homemade “Dump Lying Trump” sign pasted outside her home in Nanty Glo, a small mining town in central Pennsylvania. She plans to register as a Democratic poll observer to ensure Trump supporters play by the rules on election day.
Phillips and her husband are information junkies, so they already had television tuning to CNN on October 4 when Trump briefly left the Walter Reed Army Medical Center while in hospital to greet his supporters. They watched in disbelief as Trump happily greet his fans through the thick windows of his armored SUV, knowing that Secret Service agents in the car were at risk of contracting the virus.
“Over 200,000 people have died and that doesn’t even bother him. He doesn’t even mention it, ”Phillips said. “He only thinks of himself. “
Eight in ten coronavirus deaths in the United States are in people aged 65 and over. Trump still doesn’t regularly wear a face mask – and the elderly have said they feel betrayed.
J. Robb, 76, lives in an continuing care retirement community in Media, where residents are so afraid of the virus that they don’t eat together in the dining room. He said he and his wife were dismayed when they saw Trump remove his mask in the White House after being released from Walter Reed.
“I thought he would find religion after being exposed, but it’s clear no conversion took place,” said Robb, a registered independent who has long supported Republican presidential candidates.
It’s not just that older voters soured on Trump; they also find Biden attractive, polls show.
About two-thirds of probable Pennsylvania voters aged 65 and over told Quinnipiac pollsters that Biden, 77, is honest and has a sense of decency. And after the debate, 42% of those polled said they had a more favorable opinion of Biden. Just over half said their take on Trump, who repeatedly interrupted Biden during the debate and yelled above the moderator, had declined.
The share of older Pennsylvania voters who think Biden cares about other Americans, 66%, is higher than any other age group.
Jo-Ann Cooper, 72, a Democrat who lives in Philadelphia and spoke to a reporter on a 10-mile walk, described Biden as “a good guy.”
Walt Wiesenhutter taught finance at Bucks County Community College for 50 years and loves that Biden graduated from the University of Delaware, a public school.
“He’s an ordinary guy,” said Wiesenhutter, a 75-year-old Democrat who lives in an assisted living facility in Ambler.
Carol Cooper, who is black, said Biden may be the only person who can fix things.
As she waited to catch the bus on Olney Avenue in northwest Philadelphia, Cooper said she hoped to vote by mail but was ready to stand in line on polling day for as long as he could. would have if his ballot never arrived.
“This is the most important election of my life,” said Cooper, 73, a longtime Democrat. “If I have to do it, I will definitely go. I’ll bring a chair and just move my chair.
Trump can still count on the strong support of older members of his base across Pennsylvania.
Doug Sutter, 69, backed the president four years ago and said he had done quite well in Trump’s America. Her adult children are all married and working. He is not rich, but he is not in pain. And so far, the unrest that has swept some towns has not reached East Rochester in Beaver County, where Sutter has lived his entire life.
Like most seniors, Sutter is concerned about the coronavirus, especially because of his heart problems, but he still believes the president has handled the pandemic well. Quinnipiac found that 59% of Pennsylvania voters aged 65 and over disapprove of Trump’s response.
“If he could wave a magic wand, he would make that go away,” said Sutter, sitting in a motorized scooter parked in his driveway in suburban Pittsburgh. “He has to work with what he’s been given, and I think he’s stuck on so many things he wants to do to help this country. It’s all political.
Larry Keys, 80, lives in a city and hopes to see Trump win in a landslide, but he’s not sure how realistic that wish is. The president’s abrasive style, he admitted, is not for everyone.
“I worship the man,” Keys said. “I think he did a fantastic job in the White House. However, I don’t always agree with his speech. But I’m still going to vote for him.
– Editor Julia Terruso contributed to this article.