WASHINGTON – Jay Copan was part of the coalition that made Donald Trump president in 2016. Now he has had enough and plans to send Trump into retirement.
Copan, 68, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, considers himself fiscally and socially conservative. A white, independent man registered in a decisive state, he has voted Republican in each of the last nine presidential elections. Support Trump’s tax cuts, energy policy, and judges. It is precisely the type of voter that Republicans should be able to win, and cannot afford to lose.
But Copan says he will vote for Joe Biden this fall.
“At the end of the day, I want this to be a better country for my growing grandchildren. And having a president who is a pathological liar, a sociopath, a narcissist, a misogynist and a bully is not the way I want to leave this. country, “said Copán. “Despite my views on the issues, I don’t see any way to support him to be president for another four years because of how he has behaved.”
Copan represents a group of voters that Trump, who is 74, should be concerned about: Americans over 65 who are deserting Biden. Seniors have voted for the Republican candidate in all presidential elections since 2004, according to exit polls. They favored Trump by 8 points in 2016, according to NBC News exit polls.
But most polls this month show Trump behind Biden among this group, down 2 points in a New York Times / Siena poll, 4 points in a CNN poll, 8 points in an NBC poll. / Wall Street Journal, 8 points in a Quinnipiac poll.
Trump’s sliding support among this key demographic has helped Biden follow 9.4 points in the FiveThirtyEight poll average through Monday.
As voters under 45 increasingly prefer Democrats, losing senior citizens could drown on Trump’s path to reelection. Some allies worry that he is confronting older voters with his taunt of 77-year-old Biden’s placid temper and his verbal stumbles with the nickname “sleepy Joe” and persistent hints that his rival is losing his mental powers.
“The hot air escaping from President Trump’s campaign balloon among older people is certainly a cause for concern,” Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and Trump supporter, said in an email. “His angry rhetoric and his constant search for age and Biden’s ailments could be a considerable part of the problem here. This is a group of people used to being cared for and respected.”
The shifting views of older people were showcased when a parade in favor of Trump protested at The Villages, a retirement community that leans on Republicans in Florida. A video of the clashes went viral after the president tweeted (and later deleted) a clip that included a follower with Trump gear yelling “white power” at someone who called him a racist. (His spokesman later said he didn’t see that part.)
Trump campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella told NBC News that “while President Trump is in the White House, older people in the United States can trust him to act in their best interest as he delivers the Great American Return “
“America’s older adults are the backbone of this nation, and President Trump is dedicated to protecting their livelihoods,” Parella said in a statement. “As Joe Biden serves as a puppet for the far left, leaning toward radical ideas that threaten our economy and our healthcare system, President Trump is taking care of our older adults on Medicare.”
Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster who helps conduct the NBC / Wall Street Journal poll, said Biden’s lead with older voters shows that “there is a lot of wind behind him.”
“Those things that scare older people the most, including health care, can speak stylistically to them but cannot speak substantially to them,” he said.
But Hart cautioned that there is a long time left before Election Day and that older adults’ attitudes may change: “I like to warn people: don’t over-emphasize the June polls. Because it can be misleading.”
Two weeks ago, the President held a White House roundtable called Fighting For America’s Seniors in which he proclaimed his “unwavering dedication to our senior citizens.”
He promoted the work of his administration by launching the National Elder Fraud Line and charging dozens of defendants for allegedly defrauding older people, his efforts to limit the cost of insulin and his promise to continue “defending Medicare and the Social Security”.
But Trump’s other actions and rhetoric may be hurting him with older voters.
He encouraged states to reopen their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic, which is disproportionately fatal among older people. He recently suggested without any evidence that a 75-year-old Buffalo man who was pushed by police and wounded was a plant of the far-left antifa movement. It has launched devastating attacks on universal voting by mail, an option that many older adults prefer.
Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo said the former vice president’s plans to reopen the economy include measures to protect seniors from COVID-19, noting that he plans to preserve the Affordable Care Act, which Trump is fighting in the court to revoke.
Trump won older voters in 2016 by promising economic prosperity and reaching nostalgic notes from an era before free trade and globalization affected the once vibrant U.S. manufacturing sector. He benefited from the high unpopularity of his opponent at the time, Hillary Clinton, winning decisive votes from Americans who were skeptical of both candidates.
One of them was Copán.
“I absolutely couldn’t vote for Hillary, I had enough of the Clintons,” he said. “I literally covered my nose and voted for Trump. I thought it was the lesser of the two evils; I just didn’t realize how evil he could be.”