Elderly voters the biggest push behind the GOP wave
Monday, November 08, 2010 at 9:00 am
The election post-mortems keep rolling in. Politico’s Byron Tau’s report on the remarkable shift in voting patterns among America’s oldest voters goes a long way to explain why last week’s contest became such a rout for Republicans. Voters over 65, he writes, favored Republicans by a 21-point margin after breaking narrowly for Democrats in 2006, and in some key races the margin was even more lopsided:
In New Hampshire, for instance, seniors backed GOP Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte over her Democratic challenger by 33 points. In the narrow Illinois Senate contest, Republican Mark Kirk won older voters by 22 points. And In Delaware, they were the only age group to back tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell, by an 11-point margin.
“I’ve been saying since August 2009, that there was a tsunami — in this case a senior citizen tsunami — headed towards Capitol Hill,” said Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association, a conservative campaign group targeted toward older voters. “That tsunami came ashore.”
The 60 Plus Association, it should be noted, played a key role, along with groups like American Crossroads, in drumming up fears among the elderly about the health care reform bill’s efforts to fight the rising cost of Medicare — a cause that Republicans had long championed but now found opportune to decry. Billing itself a conservative alternative to the AARP, the 60 Plus Association served in many ways as an extension of the American Crossroads-led network of shadow GOP organizations devoted to electing Republicans last election cycle. Carl Forti, a veteran Republican operative and the political director of American Crossroads, also handled the PR and media profile of the 60 Plus group, which spent nearly $6 million dollars in independent expenditures attacking House Democrats who voted for health care reform.
Combine the swing among seniors with the fact that young people largely stayed home from the polls last Tuesday, and the landslide seem less like a shift in the national opinion and more like the product of simple demographic mathematics. Here’s a voter turnout graph Matt Yglesias provided last week, which speaks to this point:
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