Much attention recently has been focused on the alleged “Republican War on Women,” which has produced a gender gap that has in some polls recently exceeded 20%.
But there is another war that is soon likely to be declared — a war on senior citizens — that probably will be just as important in determining the outcome of this year’s presidential election.
First, a little history.
In both 2008 and 2004, voters over the age of 65 comprised 16% of the electorate.
In 2008, Republican John McCain won that group by a 53% to 45% margin over the ultimate winner, Barack Obama.
Similarly, in 2004, Republican George W. Bush won a 52% to 47% victory over his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, among voters over the age of 65.
The GOP’s share of the senior vote increased overall by a 3 point margin between 2004 and 2008 – a swing that is all the more significant in light of the fact that while George W. Bush won a narrow victory overall in 2004, John McCain lost by close to 6 points to President Obama nationally in.
The real shift though among seniors came in the 2010 midterm Congressional elections.
First, the senior vote increased from 16% of the electorate in 2008 to 21%. And indeed, a look at the Exit Poll data shows clearly and unambiguously that Republican House candidates received a decisive share of the senior vote – with voters over the age of 65 voting Republican by an extraordinary 21 point margin (59%-38%).
Put another way, the massive swing among seniors from just two years earlier — no doubt motivated in large measure by concerns about the president’s healthcare bill — produced a swing to the Republicans that ultimately delivered the House for the GOP.