By John McCormick –Bloomberg
The master-gardener meeting, the bridge tournament, and a heated match of seven-card draw poker leave little time for politics at the Via Linda senior citizensâ€™ center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Yet ask about PresidentÂ Barack ObamaÂ and former Massachusetts GovernorÂ Mitt RomneyÂ and it doesnâ€™t take long to determine the preferred candidate.
â€œHe has some very socialistic leanings and believes in big government,â€ Lu Ittner, 86, a retired surgical nurse, said of Obama. â€œHe is destroying our economy with his policies.â€
While Obama so far dominates Romney among many demographic groups — women, younger voters, middle-aged voters, blacks and Hispanics — the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has a solid lead among the nationâ€™s senior citizens. Some of the most reliable voters, those 65 and older represented 16 percent of the electorate in the 2008 election,exit pollsÂ show.
A CNN/ORC InternationalÂ pollÂ taken April 13-15 showed Romney led Obama, 54 percent to 39 percent, with seniors. Among those supporting Romney, 58 percent said their vote would be more against Obama than for Romney.
The Republicanâ€™s strength among seniors comes even though he has said he generally supports a plan put forward by House Budget Committee ChairmanÂ Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, that would gradually raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65 and turn it into a voucher-like program where future seniors would receive subsidies to purchase health care on the open market.
Romney, who turned 65 in March, has also said heâ€™d raise the Social Security retirement age for younger people and index benefit increases for higher-income retirees to inflation instead of wages.
Democrats have sought to link Romney to the Ryan budget. Obama, 50, said during an April 3 speech that the changes in Ryanâ€™s proposal would â€œultimately end Medicare as we know it.â€
Obamaâ€™s campaign has deployed Vice PresidentÂ Joe Biden, 69, as its top surrogate to senior citizens, including in the battleground and retiree-heavy state ofÂ Florida. During an April 19 stop in Phoenix, Biden reminded an audience that he knows what itâ€™s like to be a grandfather, telling those gathered that grandchildren â€œlove you and like you all the time,â€ unlike your own children.
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