It is a vote he regrets, he said, and a mistake he hopes to correct in November.
“He blew it up,” said Dudley, without mince words as he assessed Trump’s first term. “We were so excited at the start. A businessman to run our country like a business and that didn’t happen. ”
The burning sentiment of 77-year-old Dudley illustrates one of the growing concerns within the Trump campaign: the loss of the senior vote, a reliable Republican constituency for two decades.
“We have to find a new guy. Our president is erratic, “said Dudley, who has voted largely Republican for almost six decades. “All he managed to do was go up the stock market. Now it’s gone to hell because of the coronavirus. ”
Concerns about the loss of senior officials’ votes arise as coronavirus cases escalate across the country, four months before the general election. And here in Florida, there are many signs of anxiety in the summer, when a record 10,109 cases were reported on Thursday. The administration’s handling of the crisis was repeatedly raised in interviews with older voters – a group more vulnerable to serious coronavirus illnesses – this week. Several people have said that the pandemic was only their last disappointment with Trump’s presidency, some using words like “embarrassment” and “laughing at the world” to describe their views on the president.
“I was hoping I would be wrong not to vote for him and that he would turn out to be a great president, but that didn’t happen,” said Marsha Lundh, 77, a Michigan retiree living here. and a longtime Republican who plans to vote for Biden in November.
She said defeating Trump would add stability to the country and the world.
“We are very divided in every way,” she said. “Everything could have been better managed and should have been better managed. It is now possible to change things. ”
Paula Schelling left the Republican Party because of Trump, after voting for GOP candidates for much of her life. She changed her registration to “no party affiliation” and also plans to vote for Biden.
“I had to change parties. I couldn’t do this anymore, ”said Schelling, 74, a retired teacher. “As I saw his interactions with foreign countries, how they made fun of us, it just strengthened my thoughts. ”
For Trump, there is virtually no path to re-election without winning Florida, a state where the elderly have disproportionate influence. Major battleground states of Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin also have large older populations, causing the best Republicans to sound the alarm over the erosion of voter support more aged.
“It wasn’t going to be easy anyway, but the coronavirus turned it into a perfect storm,” a senior Republican on condition of anonymity told CNN to discuss growing concern about the prospect of losing a significant share of older voters. “We cannot win if we lose older people. ”
The struggle for the critical vote of seniors is played out as a competition between peers, Trump, 74, and Biden, 77, gradually stepping up their campaigns against each other. Trump is striving to increase support for older white men, a crucial part of his base, while Biden is trying to broaden his appeal to older white women. Colored voters strongly favor Biden, polls show.
On the Gulf Coast of Florida, Trump won Pinellas County by 1 percentage point – the same margin he held with the state. Democrats and Republicans had roughly the same number of voters registered in 2016, but Democrats now have an advantage of around 10,000, making places like the “World’s Top” retirement community a field battlefield.
“There are more Democrats today than there used to be,” said Donna Lukas, a longtime leader of the Democratic Community Club. “People seemed to hate Hillary for a variety of reasons, but I don’t hear as much negativity about Joe. I know some Republicans who certainly don’t vote for Trump and will likely vote for Biden. ”
David Cordes, the newly elected president of the Democratic club, said that he “was not crazy about Hillary, but I was absolutely against Donald Trump.” He said he is talking to many people who will enthusiastically support Biden.
“I know many,” said Cordes, “including my son and grandson. ”
In this sprawling community of approximately 10,000 retirees, which is large enough to require two polling stations, several Democrats repeated the same sentiment. It will not be until November that it will be clear whether anecdotal evidence is proven in the polls – or by the absentee vote, which could also be at the heart of the high turnout this fall, requests for voting by mail increasing in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Robert Blethen, a loyal Trump supporter in the community who believes he will win a second term, said he wanted the president to do one thing: wear a mask.
“He is our chef. We admire him, “said Blethen. “Our president should wear a mask. ”
The airwaves are filled with political ads here in Florida, including a Trump campaign ad that questions Biden’s fitness for duty. This place didn’t work well for Democrats here like Joyce Monahan, a retired professor.
“Trump is not much younger, but in the case of Joe Biden, his inherent wisdom and desire to surround himself with the best people is clear. He already said that Anthony Fauci was coming with him, “she said with excitement. in his voice. “This is not the right place to talk about age! ”
While many Democrats expressed an optimistic mood about Biden’s position in the polls and how the party appears to have unified behind his candidacy, a feeling of unease was also clear.
“What worries me most are the Republicans who don’t want Trump but who don’t vote for Joe,” said Dianna Wade, 64, while playing a shuffleboard game in a park. outside here the other night. “This is just a vote for Trump as far as I am concerned. If they want to, they have to vote for Joe. ”
Jim Donelon, president of the Democratic Club of Saint Petersburg, said he did not remember another election in his life when he felt so much enthusiasm among the Democrats. Much, he said, stems from disgust for the president and a demand for change.
“Trump is our greatest ally, as far as I’m concerned,” said 77-year-old Donelon. “He turns out to be people who have never been interested in politics before. “