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The Firsts-in-the-Nation Review

A voter casts her primary ballot at the town hall in Canterbury, N.H.

It’s a long road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the 2016 election has begun. As I sit here after the final totals are being tallied for South Carolina and Nevada, I thought I would share a couple of insights that I’ve learned coming out of the first couple of caucuses and primaries.

In Iowa, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton squeaked out a victory — the closest margin of victory the Iowa Democratic caucus has ever seen — over Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won, stunning Donald Trump. Fast forward a week to New Hampshire and we find that the “second-place winners” of the caucuses claimed decisive victories. The “Firsts in the Nation” set us up for a really interesting race in both the Republican primary in South Carolina and the Democratic caucus in Nevada. Across all of these races, a big reason that each winning candidate won — in each state — is the same: the age 50-plus vote.

  • This year the Iowa caucuses had the largest turnout of voters ever — 180,000 eligible voters. Of those, approximately 63 percent of Republican caucus-goers and 58 percent of Democratic caucus-goers were 50 or older. And both Cruz and Clinton owe a large part of their victories in Iowa to the 50-plus.
  • The same is true in New Hampshire — which might surprise some considering Sanders’ appeal to younger voters. Fifty-seven percent of Republican primary voters and 51 percent of Democrats were 50 or older — encompassing over one-half of Trump’s total votes and nearly one-third of Sanders’ total.
  • In South Carolina, Trump, who led early in polls, beat out Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida by 10 percent of the vote. His win was largely due to the 50-plus vote, which made up for 63 percent of his total vote.
  • And in Nevada, Clinton beat out Sanders by 6 percent of the total vote. While the other races were heavily influenced by the 50-plus, Clinton’s win in Nevada was especially linked to her turnout of this segment — which encompassed 74 percent of her total vote.


That is an amazing amount of support on both the Republican and Democratic sides from one age group! And it goes to show just how engaged and powerful 50-plus voters are this election cycle.

AARP is encouraging all of the candidates to # TakeAStand and state their plans for Social Security. Our members, and the nation as a whole, deserve to know what each candidate has in store for this important program.

Our volunteers are hard at work to hold the candidates accountable.

  • In Iowa, our volunteers attended more than 95 events, and placed close to 35,000 calls.
  • In New Hampshire, we hit 94 events and made close to 50,000 calls.
  • In South Carolina, our staff and volunteers hit 70 events and made over 44,000 calls

Every candidate should have a stance on Social Security. Does yours? Sign our petition here »

Looking forward, we expect the trend of high 50-plus participation in this election to continue — and our volunteers will be out in full force asking the candidates for their specific plans on Social Security! Based on the results in South Carolina especially, we could see the same sort of turnout throughout the so called SEC primaries on March 1.

While no result is a sure bet, one thing is certain: Our members view having a Social Security plan as a test of leadership and will push the remaining candidates to #TakeAStand on Social Security, if they haven’t already done so. There are a lot of twists and turns on the road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but ultimately, 50-plus voters will need to be a big part of any candidate’s coalition in order to win.

For more information on the candidates stances on Social Security, please visit Take A Stand.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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