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What Older Arizona Voters Are Looking For Ahead Of The November Election

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

As America gets older, so does its electorate. Nearly 1 in 4 voters this cycle will be 65 or older. That's the highest level for at least half a century. President Trump won that group in 2016, but new polls show his support may have eroded. As part of our series where we talk to members of key voting blocs in key states, we go now to Arizona and the retirement communities of Sun City. Marsha McGovern is the president of the Sun City Democratic Club.

Welcome to you.

MARSHA MCGOVERN: Hello.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Frank Rizzo is the president of the Sun City Grand Republican Club.

Welcome to you.

FRANK RIZZO: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Susan Lydon lives in Sun City.

Welcome to you.

SUSAN LYDON: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Marsha, I'm going to start with you. You're 77. You've been heading the Democratic Club for a while now. Are you seeing a shift in some voters, as has been suggested by the polls?

MCGOVERN: Oh, my goodness. In 2016, our club had about 100 members. Now we have 300 active members.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And when they get involved, what do they say is motivating them?

MCGOVERN: What really bothers us is the way he's handled the coronavirus. It's contributed to over 200,000 American lives being lost and tens of millions of jobs being lost. And it has caused harm to our children's future by abandoning and deregulating environmental programs.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Frank, you're 74 years old. We heard Marsha there saying that there's been enthusiasm on the Democratic side. And I'm curious to see if you've seen perhaps some people changing their views or opinions.

RIZZO: Absolutely. It's going the other way. Our population has increased as far as Trump supporters by threefold at least. When they say he's responsible for 200,000 lives - so somebody else would've had no lives lost - that's ridiculous to think about. Our people aren't really concerned with that. We're concerned about things in government, such as the violence that's going on and it's not being rebuked, the health care issue, trying to get a single-payer system which would eliminate competition. The coronavirus is something that is there. When it arrives, it does take down its population, and then it recedes for a while.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Susan, I'm going to bring you in now. You're 69. Polls show that women in your age cohort are less likely to support Trump. You were Republican, but you are voting now Democratic. Why?

LYDON: I could not get behind Trump from the very beginning. My biggest issues were his representation of his business acumen, where he had filed bankruptcy with his various companies about half a dozen times. My background was as a commercial loan officer in a bank, so there was no way I could support somebody with that kind of financial background. In addition, I had issues from the very beginning about the way he treated women and the way he talked about women. The way that the Republicans have got behind all of the issues that I have problems with Trump have led me to say the Republican Party is no longer for me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Frank, when you look at the country as it stands right now, what do you think four more years will bring that you want to see happen in the United States?

RIZZO: Well, all this stuff about him womanizing and things like this - you know, when he was a rich bachelor, that's one thing. But I voted for a president that could get us out of the hole we were in. So from my perspective, he's done everything right up to the point when the coronavirus attacked everybody. Now, I agree that the coronavirus is deadly, but it's more deadly to shut down our economy. We'll become a third-world nation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Marsha, let me ask you this. An Arizona poll done by the AARP showed that 90% of older Arizonans said protecting Social Security and 88% said strengthening Medicare are important priorities. How do you rate the two candidates on issues of health care? And how important is that particular issue to you?

MCGOVERN: Well, health care is one of my top issues after coronavirus because health care should not be tied to employment. We need to strengthen and improve the ACA, and we need to get to universal coverage through a public option which is managed by the Center for Medicare and Medicare Services (ph). We have to decrease the cost of prescription drugs, and we have to have transparency. We cannot have a free market health care system without transparency.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Frank, are you on Medicare? What are your thoughts on it? And then I'm going to bring in Susan afterwards to see what you think about this issue.

RIZZO: Well, yes, I am on Medicare, and I have a supplemental. I have several chronic diseases - for instance, diabetes. My insulin is extremely expensive. But the president and Senator McSally have brought down the insulin by about 600% for me. And I have so many friends that have been on Obamacare, and several of them have had to give it up because it was too expensive. I mean, I've seen real life with Obamacare, and I just can't - I can't go along with it.

LYDON: I had a completely different experience with Obamacare. I wound up retiring when I was 60. Six months later, I had to get a pacemaker. I now had a preexisting condition that I could not get reasonable medical insurance at all. The only thing available to me prior to Obamacare was a $50,000 limit on a medical policy. And at that, I was paying hundreds of dollars a month for it. Obamacare saved me from having to go back to work just to get insurance.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We do have two candidates who are in their 70s, and there's been a lot of discussion about their age. And I would like to hear your thoughts on that as a member of their same generation. I'm going to start with you, Susan, then Marsha, then Frank.

LYDON: Both candidates are older than I would like to see. I would prefer to see younger. And that is part of my support of the Democratic ticket - is that Senator Harris way outshines Vice President Pence as a possible fallback for either of these candidates.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Marsha.

MCGOVERN: Well, I think age is a number, but you have to look at the individual. There are some 60-year-olds who are very old and could not handle the job. There are some 80-year-olds that are probably fit as a fiddle and could handle the job. And I think it's wonderful that the Democratic vice president is young, vibrant, articulate, sparkly, warm. She could quickly and efficiently step into the job.

RIZZO: Kamala Harris, to me, is very much a fanatic. I'm sure if Joe Biden gets in, they're going to - right now, they're talking about the 25th Amendment. They will push that on Biden in order to get Kamala Harris in, and that would be the total destruction of the country. Just look at what she did in California.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Does Trump's age worry you?

RIZZO: Well, both of their ages. But he's a pretty dynamic person. And what do they say? The - 70 is the new 50. And I believe that because you're only as old as you act.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So listening to you, you live in the same community or at least in the same general area - very different political views. And I'm wondering how heated it's been there with you in your communities. Are you having frank discussions with your neighbors who might have a different opinion, or are you basically sticking to people who might see things the same as you? Susan, then Marsha, then Frank.

LYDON: Until the last five or six years, I always felt that I could listen to the other side, and they could listen to me. And we would have to agree to disagree. Now it's gotten so polarized that I'm afraid to say anything other than to the people that I know have the same opinion I do. That's not good for our democracy at all.

MCGOVERN: A cute story, I think, is when I first met Susan. It was in a book club. And I knew that she was a Republican, or at least that's what I was told. And so I was very careful. I listened to what she had to say, and I scoped her out. And I think that's good. I think we should be careful and respectful of other people's views.

But when social distancing and wearing of a mask become a political statement, that's terrifying. It should not be that way. So this year, instead of hiding behind my Democratic affiliations, I boldly put out a Biden/Harris flag under my eaves of my condo. And wouldn't you know it that the secretary treasurer of our condo association, who I was convinced was a Republican and even a Trumper, came up to me and said, thank you for putting up the flag. I usually vote Republican, but I'm voting for Biden now. So I thought, you never know. Your boldness might enable others to be bold. And it might - and, you know, it might create a dialogue.

RIZZO: Yeah, that's pretty interesting. Here in Sun City Grand, they've been stealing Trump signs all over the community. And when caught, they go crazy. So, you know, I've seen this division go for many, many years. One of the reasons I could never have voted for Hillary Clinton is because of Benghazi. I used to be a Democrat quite a while ago. Now, it - they've gotten diametrically opposed and way to the extreme on both sides. So do I want to extremely be a Democrat or extremely be a Republican? There's no question that I'll be on the Republican side for that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I appreciate all three of you expressing your opinions. We deeply appreciate your time. That was Frank Rizzo, Marsha McGovern and Susan Lydon.

Thank you all.

RIZZO: Thank you.

MCGOVERN: Thank you.

LYDON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MODESELEKTOR AND THOM YORKE SONG, "SHIPWRECK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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