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US News American Presidential: under the Florida sun, disenchantment wins over seniors

23:50  15 october  2020
23:50  15 october  2020 Source:   france24.com

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© Yona Helaoua, France 24 "The Villages", a retirement community in Florida, where residents get around by golf cart.

Traditionally more inclined to vote Republican, more and more seniors seem to abandon Donald Trump, accused of failing to manage the health crisis. France 24 traveled to Florida, to America's largest retirement community, "The Villages". Reportage.

Under the blazing sun of downtown Florida one October afternoon, Richard Roman was resting on the bench of a small shopping street. At 66, this New Yorker is looking for a peaceful place to retire. So he spent the morning prospecting in America's largest retiree community, "The Villages," an hour from Orlando. "I am looking for a house and I am looking for a woman", sums up this computer programmer with a smile.

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Here, the houses for sale oscillate between 200,000 and 2 million dollars, notes Richard Roman, who appreciates the activities offered by "The Villages": golf, tennis, neighborhood parties… Above all, he is attracted by the political color of this community of 77,000 inhabitants with a Republican majority. "I'm going to feel good here!" On November 3, he will vote for Donald Trump for the second time. "The Democrats are trying to transform the United States into a communist country like China or Russia. Me, I want to be free," he explains. He accuses the left of wanting free everywhere: "Free housing, free medicine, free education… but who pays for all that?" As for the Democratic presidential candidate, it is better not to launch him on the subject: "Joe Biden, he sleeps all the time."

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A few meters away, the covered terrace of the "City Fire" bar is gradually filling up. Here, the aperitif does not have time. Mike, a die-hard Republican who has lived at "The Villages" for five years, sits at a table with friends. "Me, Joe Biden, look what I'm doing to him," he says, with a middle finger. "He's a moron, so are his supporters," he adds before recommending a vodka-tonic. "The Villages" is known for its strong support for Donald Trump. Vice-President Mike Pence held a meeting there last weekend. Here, retirees get around in golf carts with signs in the colors of their favorite candidate. And with less than three weeks before the presidential election, the mood is growing tense.

Democratic Mobilization

"We receive attacks by e-mail and on Facebook, says Chris Stanley, the boss of the local Democratic club. If we are crossed with a pro-Biden t-shirt, we are blocked or we are insult." Regardless, Democrats are more engaged than ever this year. They even organized a pro-Biden parade in golf carts. About 100 of them are working tirelessly to ensure that their camp's participation is maximum. "People are more and more motivated because of the horror they see in the White House, said Mary Vaughan, a 65-year-old volunteer who sorts flyers. They want their voices to count and they are getting better and better. informed about postal voting. "

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The coronavirus pandemic is indeed pushing many seniors to choose this voting method sharply criticized by Donald Trump. But in Florida, a swing state where Donald Trump won 1.2 points more than Hillary Clinton in 2016, nearly a third of voters are over 65. While retirees have traditionally tended to lean towards the Republican camp, recent polls show the tide may be turning this time around.

Marie Vaughan believes that such a scenario is impossible locally. "Here, there are two Republicans for a Democrat. So the probability that Joe Biden wins 'The Villages' is very low. But every vote counts for Florida and therefore for the electoral college and the election of the president", reason- she does. The hope, then, is that these few scrambled voices will help Joe Biden win in the end.

Donald Trump plagued by pandemic

Donald Trump's threat to end payroll taxes to fund retirement and health insurance for the elderly is among the biggest concerns here, according to Democratic Leader Chris Stanley. The president's "hateful rhetoric, incessant tweets and lies" are also singled out. Many also believe that Donald Trump has been unable to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, a virus that is particularly dangerous for the elderly.

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John Jerow, a 67-year-old independent voter who voted Donald Trump in 2016, believes that the subject of the coronavirus could ultimately shift his vote towards the Democratic candidate. "If the election were to take place today, I would vote for Joe Biden," said the retiree, who has yet to make his decision quite clear. Arrived two years ago at "The Villages", this former Pentagon employee does not mind wearing the mask, unlike his neighbors. "I was at the Mike Pence meeting last weekend. No one wears a mask or practiced social distancing. It bothers me a lot."

Despite these positive signals for Democrats, caution remains in order. "We burned our wings in 2016, it was terrible," remembers volunteer Mary Vaughan. At the time, the polls predicted Hillary Clinton’s victory. "Of course, we read everywhere that Joe Biden is winning. But it's the polls that say it, not the votes actually counted." While waiting for the results, Mary Vaughan and the others will continue to work hard so that "The Villages" participate, even with only a few voices, in the long-awaited blue wave.

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