Donald Trump is the early-bird special candidate: The older Republicans get, the more they love him

Old conservatives simply cannot get enough of Donald Trump. Here's why

Published July 2, 2015 11:58AM (EDT)

Donald Trump                              (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)
Donald Trump (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)

Back to the greatest mystery in politics right now: Who the hell are these Republicans who support Donald Trump? Who are they in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in Kentucky, in Michigan, across the nation? Are they dumb, racist, both? Close: They're old.

From the new CNN national poll write-up that has Trump in second place, at 13 percent, behind Jeb Bush's 19 percent:

Trump's competitiveness among those older and more conservative Republicans also helps explain Walker's and Rubio's declines. In April, 16% of Republicans age 50 or older backed Rubio, 14% Walker. Now, Rubio has just 6% among this group and Walker has 7%. Trump grew from 2% in May to 14% now.

Among conservatives in May, Rubio led the field with 15%, Walker was just behind at 14%. Bush had 11%, about the same as in the current poll. Now, Walker has fallen to 8%, and Rubio is down five points to 10%. And Trump has grown from 2% to 12%. Rubio also lost ground among moderate or liberal Republicans, just 1% back Rubio in the new poll, down from 11%.

And the older they get, the more they like Trump. Trump is at 14 percent among Republican voters 50 and over, but he's at 19 percent among voters 65 and older. That fancy man from the television box during Bingo is running for president and he hates the Mexicans. Can I put him in my will?

But maybe there's a policy aspect to this, too, that draws the elderly to the mishmash of words that might be called Donald Trump's platform. The only vaguely coherent part of his platform -- i.e., not the "I'm going to stare China and Mexico in the eye" (hilarious) jargon -- is his support for maintaining the large social insurance programs. He has actually been pretty consistent in his talking points on these matters during both his 2011 flirtation and his current, official run: no cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

This would align perfectly with the interests of the older, conservative, "get your government hands off my Medicare!" Tea Party elements he's successfully courting, who believe that a full 99 percent of government spending is devoted to no-strings-attached welfare for African-Americans and foreign aid and don't see what's so difficult about bringing either the short- or long-term fiscal outlooks into alignment.

Here's a quote from Trump in New Hampshire just the other day, as replayed on Rush Limbaugh's program, that shows Trump knows exactly what he's doing:

TRUMP:  When I heard Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan, I mean, what he's known for is killing entitlements.  I said, "That election is over."  Now, it was really over because Mitt choked in the last month. Let's face it, he choked. He choked like a dog. I don't know what happened to him, but that was not a pretty picture to watch.  I'm not a choker.  He choked like a dog.

This is all part of the game, played by Democrats and Republicans alike, to turn the politics of Social Security and Medicare backward because old people are the ones who vote. The Ryan plan, and all its offshoots over the past few years in Republican policy, would not have laid a hand on anyone who's either old or nearing oldness. Currently. No one within 10 years of receiving Medicare benefits would have been forced to enroll in Ryan's voucher-coupon care. This does not mean that the Ryan plan was Good. It is very bad for younger people who will, one day, be eligible for Medicare. Look at the plans candidates are spreading around for Social Security, too: No one anywhere near retirement will see their Social Security benefits cut; everyone else will see another raise in the retirement age and partial privatization and so forth. The Ryan plan is harmless to current seniors and terrible for younger people.

So Trump -- and Huckabee, too  -- will run around telling old people that all the other candidates want to cut their Social Security and Medicare, and this might work pretty well for them. The truth is, current old people have nothing to fear from any of the Republican candidates. Younger people are the ones who have a lot to fear from them and should be the ones responding to Trump's message to leave everything intact, but Trump freaks younger people out with his insane racism and general clownish air, so.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell

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2016 Elections Donald Trump Editor's Picks Medicare Old People Republicans Social Security