Not a surprise, as the public polling shows the same thing. But this trend is noteworthy given the outsized repercussions it would have on the election if senior citizens flipped from red to blue this fall. It’s probably overstating it to say “game over for Trump” if this happens, as there’s always a chance that the youth vote or the Latino vote will desert Biden to such a ruinous extent that it’ll more than offset any gains he gets from winning seniors.

But it’s close to being game over for Trump if oldies go Democratic. Moving early to address the problem is smart thinking by him and his aides. There’s not a moment to spare.

It’s also worth taking stock of this trend at a moment when we’re shifting from phase one of the coronavirus pandemic to phase two, as that might influence seniors’ opinions. Phase one was the lockdown era, the underwhelming initial attempt to mitigate the spread; it cost us 75,000 Americans, many of them aged 65 and over. Phase two is the reopening of the country, an attempt to rebuild some economic normalcy. If that goes well, seniors might start to brighten on Trump. But not necessarily: Some may have durably soured on him because of how palpably more interested he is in the economic component of the crisis than the containment part. Seniors know which demographic group is destined to take the brunt of the death toll as commerce resumes and the disease begins to spread more rapidly. Do they share the president’s priorities or do they not? The polling later this summer will tell us.

[S]eniors are also the most vulnerable to the global pandemic, and the campaign’s internal polls, people familiar with the numbers said, show Mr. Trump’s support among voters over the age of 65 softening to a concerning degree, as he pushes to reopen the country’s economy at the expense of stopping a virus that puts them at the greatest risk.

A recent Morning Consult poll found that Mr. Trump’s approval rating on the handling of the coronavirus was lower with seniors than with any other group other than young voters. And Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, in recent polls held a 10-point advantage over Mr. Trump among voters who are 65 and older. A poll commissioned by the campaign showed a similar double-digit gap.

Strategists aligned with Mr. Trump’s campaign are also trying to signal that some form of by-mail voting is acceptable to them, despite the reservations the president has expressed about the practice — an acknowledgment that mail voting makes it easier for seniors to participate.

Republican strategists are never going to convince Trump to support mail-in ballots, no matter how much seniors may like the idea. In fact, the warmer older voters seem towards Biden, the less enthusiastic about voting by mail Trump will become. It’s one thing if the 65+ group is solid red and he needs a way to make it easy for them to cast a vote without risking their health. But if they’re trending blue? To hell with ’em. Let them stay home.

Trump’s advisors offered the NYT something of a magic-bullet explanation for why he’s slipped with seniors: It was the daily briefings. Older voters didn’t like watching him rant semi-coherently every day for an hour or more about his political grievances when he was supposed to be updating them about a dire threat to their lives. Now that the briefings have ceased, the rift can begin to be repaired. We’ll see, but (a) it’d be strange to have voters turn on Trump after three years for engaging in quintessentially Trumpy behavior. People have gotten used to that by now. And (b) “it was the briefings” sounds suspiciously like an excuse concocted to avoid a more substantive reckoning with the federal government’s failures during phase one. Did seniors really care about the briefings, or did they care about the CDC’s dismal failure in developing a test early and Trump’s weeks of happy talk in February about the virus going away magically and the White House ultimately stepping back to let governors lead the response and Trump constantly cheerleading for an early reopening despite public anxiety about a second wave?

“It was the briefings” is the sort of thing you’d say if you didn’t want to admit that any of the other stuff had hurt you. The briefings can be fixed in a day and forgotten in a week. The incompetent management, not so much. So maybe this is wishful thinking.

I wonder if seniors are also taking their annoyance at other aspects of the pandemic response out on Trump to some degree. For instance, this AP poll doesn’t show a split by age group but if Democrats *and* Republicans both oppose the anti-lockdown protests, it’s a safe bet that seniors do too. Particularly since they’re the main beneficiaries health-wise of the country sheltering in place.

Trump’s not leading the protests but he’s shown sympathy for them, sometimes loudly (“LIBERATE MICHIGAN”) and sometimes more tactfully. His overarching message on getting back to business immediately is also perfectly in sync with the protesters’. The protests could be coloring seniors’ perceptions of Trump himself.

But there’s another possibility. Maybe seniors just like Biden better, or like him well enough relative to Trump to make the 65+ vote competitive this fall. It’s irresistible to frame polling numbers right now in terms of Trump’s response to the pandemic and economic crash since they’re each once-in-a-lifetime events. But Harry Enten recently noticed a bizarre quirk in the “Biden vs. Trump” head-to-head polling: It’s steady to a freakish degree, especially in light of the news lately. Since the beginning of 2019, notes Enten, Biden has led Trump in match-up polling by an average of six points. Since the start of 2020, he’s led him by, er, six points.

Over the past month, as COVID-19 changed the world forever? Yep. Six points as well. All in all, he says, “[i]t’s a ridiculously small range historically speaking.” Which means, strange as it may sound, that the Biden/Trump race may be largely immune to major shifts driven by current events. If a new plague and great depression can’t change it, what’s going to?

Indeed, there does seem to be some relationship between early poll movement and how well the early polling predicts the results. In cycles with smaller than normal early movement, the average difference between the polls during those four months and the final results has been 5 points. In cycles with larger than normal early movement, the average difference between the polls during that time and the final result has been 14 points.

If the polls move five points towards Trump by fall, he’d be in line for another 2016-type victory. But there’s no guarantee they’ll move in his direction; they could move towards Biden and give him something like an 11-point win. And even if the polls move towards Trump they’ll need to move a full four or five points to give him a shot at winning the electoral college. If Biden wins the popular vote by six, he’ll almost certainly get to 270 as well.

In lieu of an exit question, read this WaPo story about the growing threat to Senate Republicans in battleground states. The more Trump’s numbers slip, the greater the odds that Democrats will flip the Senate in the fall. “It is a bleak picture right now all across the map, to be honest with you,” one GOP strategist told the paper, emphasizing that an economic comeback could change the picture dramatically by fall. “This whole conversation is a referendum on Trump, and that is a bad place for Republicans to be. But it’s also not a forever place.”