Romney Support Among Senior Citizens Transcends Medicare Stance

May 8, 2012

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 citizens’ center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Yet ask about President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and it doesn’t take long to determine the preferred candidate.

“He has some very socialistic leanings and believes in big government,” Lu Ittner, 86, a retired surgical nurse, said of Obama. “He is destroying our economy with his policies.”

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 nation’s senior citizens. Some of the most reliable voters, those 65 and older represented 16 percent of the electorate in the 2008 election,exit polls show.

A CNN/ORC International poll 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.

Medicare Changes

The Republican’s strength among seniors comes even though he has said he generally supports a plan put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman 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 he’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 Ryan’s proposal would “ultimately end Medicare as we know it.”

Obama’s campaign has deployed Vice President Joe Biden, 69, as its top surrogate to senior citizens, including in the battleground and retiree-heavy state of Florida. During an April 19 stop in Phoenix, Biden reminded an audience that he knows what it’s like to be a grandfather, telling those gathered that grandchildren “love you and like you all the time,” unlike your own children.

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