They’ve been the saving grace for the GOP, too; even though seniors make up only 14 percent of the state population, they represent over 21 percent of the registered voters.
Just check the results from the last presidential election. In 2008, exit polls showed voters ages 65 and older to give the highest percentage of votes to John McCain in comparison to other age groups – 66 percent, while 61 percent of 45-to-64 voters and only 45 percent of the collective younger groups did.
It was this very high margin from seniors, who made up 20 percent of all the voters that day, that allowed the Republican candidate to win the Palmetto State by an overall nine percent.
Why, then, is the GOP alienating that same age group upon which it is most dependent for victory in South Carolina?
Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney added Paul Ryan to the ticket as his running mate. This same Wisconsin congressman is well-known for attacks upon seniors, too.
For example, in his recent national budget proposal, Ryan’s promoted complete removal of Medicare, converting it to meager stipend payouts that seniors can use to buy restrictive private health insurance.
But 892,583 in South Carolina – 19.6 percent of the state’s entire population – depend on Medicare. Eighty percent of them are senior citizens.
Ryan’s also promoted a privatization of Social Security, sending to Wall Street the money an outstanding majority of seniors use as their primary source of income.
“The Ryan Budget is a perfect example of how out-of-touch this party has become,” says Bobbie Rose, Democratic candidate for the state’s 1st congressional district, citing those cuts as examples of such alienation.
Rose’s opponent Rep. Tim Scott voted in favor of Ryan’s budget proposal, and states strong support for these privatizations.
Ryan has made it rather evident that he could care less about the opinions of those his budget will affect most, too. At a public event last year, a senior constituent informing him of the personal risks these cuts created. Ryan only made insulting jokes about him when the elderly gentleman was forcibly removed from the room by security.
Over 400,000 retired military veterans reside in the state.
Romney’s running mate selection doesn’t appear to be based on Ryan’s congressional experience; instead, it seems Romney is shooting for Tea Party support as some last-minute salvation for his campaign.
As a recent Reuters report states: “For Tea Party activists uninspired by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the choice of fiscally conservative Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate might allow them to vote in November without holding their noses.”
But the Tea Party itself has been losing its one-time and very-brief respect from Americans. A recent Pew Research study found public opinion of the Tea Party to have declined to only 20 percent approval in the United States, a sharp decline in only year.
It’s losing ground in South Carolina, too, especially in the Lowcountry part of the state. A recent poll done on behalf of the Rose campaign found only seven percent of active voters in the 1st Congressional District to identify themselves with the Tea Party; 41 percent said they have negative opinion of it.
“Tea-party fanaticism is waning,” Rose says. “The far-right fringe got their House majority (and elected my opponent, Tim Scott) in 2010. The only result has been a frozen, gridlocked House that has squandered opportunities and accomplished nothing.”
Romney-Ryan has alienated the same specific voter groups the Republican Party needed – was very dependent upon, even – to win elections in the recent past.
And it could cost the Republican Party more than just the presidential race, too.
Like Rose says, “I’m sure it will benefit every Democratic candidate in the 2012 election cycle.”