The Democrats problem with older voters


Democrats have glimpsed their biggest threat this fall, and she is Grandma.

One reason President Barack Obama and other party leaders are rolling out campaigns this week to energize young and minority voters for November's elections is that they've seen the polling data on senior citizens, and it's ugly.

Democrats once counted on voters older than 65, but many seniors' loyalties changed in the past decade. That's partly because of the parties' stands on policy such as fiscal and personal responsibility, and partly, experts said, because the demographic changed. Many of today's seniors started voting in the 1950s, when Republican Dwight Eisenhower was president. The number of seniors whom FDR converted to Democrats in the '30s is shrinking fast.

A majority of seniors backed Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona over Obama in 2008. The seniors' current tilt toward Republicans is being reinforced by Obama's biggest accomplishment as president: the health care overhaul.

A George Washington University Battleground Poll this month found that only 36 percent of likely voters who were 65 and older approved of the health care legislation, which expands and mandates health insurance coverage. That was the lowest approval rating of any voter age group.

For November's congressional elections, the poll found that seniors are far more inclined to vote for Republicans than for Democrats, by 48 percent to 33 percent.

"Other than enthusiasm of our base, it's probably the biggest problem we face," said Celinda Lake , the Democratic pollster partner of the bipartisan poll.


"Other that that Mrs. Lincoln how did you like the play?"

Wasn't passing health care supposed to energize the Democrat base? It has not happened.

It is ironic that the Democrats who have made it a practice of scaring the seniors into voting for them for decades have now scared them into voting against them. And it is not just by a little bit. The seniors are one source of the passionate opposition to the Democrat agenda and health care in particular.

It is not just selfishness on the seniors part that is driving the opposition. The seniors are also concerned about the deficit which they will not have to pay for, but their kids and grand kids will.


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