Polls suggest some retirees are shifting from having supported President Trump to voting for Joseph R. Biden Jr. But they are rare in Florida’s Republican heartland.
By Patricia Mazzei
FORT MYERS, Fla. — For Joseph R. Biden Jr. to capture Florida, he would need a lot of voters like Dave Niederkorn, a retired businessman who cast his ballot for President Trump four years ago and soon came to regret it.
And like Gerry Miller, a retiree who wrote in his own name for president in 2016 to protest the choice between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton and is appalled by how Mr. Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
Both say they voted for Mr. Biden in the unlikeliest of places: Southwest Florida, a Republican bastion that has helped elect Republican candidates in election after election and was pivotal for Mr. Trump in 2016. Switch voters know that they are rare finds, though they have recently shown up in polling and sporadic interviews.
Whether Florida’s older voters will shift away from the president in large numbers remains unknown, in a state filled with many unknowns. Even if only some retirees change allegiances to vote for Mr. Biden, that could be enough to swing Florida, which is why that prospect is so tantalizing for Democrats and a subject of fixation for the two candidates.
But while siphoning off older voters from Mr. Trump is viewed as perhaps the best path to victory for Mr. Biden in Florida, the enthusiasm for the president in Fort Myers shows how difficult that feat might be.
In 2016, Mr. Trump won Lee County, home to Fort Myers, and Collier County to the south, home to Naples, by formidable double-digit margins.
On a recent weekday morning, the line at a downtown early voting site popular with retirees was between 60 and 90 minutes long, with nearly every person willing to be interviewed saying they had voted for Mr. Trump.
Four years ago, David Allgood, 60, briefly hesitated before voting for Mr. Trump “because he was an unknown quantity,” he said after casting his vote in a strip mall next to a Robb & Stucky furniture store.
Now? “I’m a Trump man,” Mr. Allgood said.
Older voters make up a crucial electoral demographic in Florida, where more than a quarter of the population is over the age of 60. National and state polls show that Mr. Biden has made inroads with them, including with voters age 65 and older, who typically vote Republican.
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