ST. PAUL (AP) -- Younger voters pondering why preprimary political TV ads seem to focus exclusively on senior issues, consider this:
People over age 50 are overwhelming those in their 20s and 30s at the polls on primary election days, and the candidates know it.
An analysis of voting records by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis found that 61 percent of people who voted in Minnesota's 1998 primary election were age 50 or older even though the age group comprises only 36 percent of the voting-age population.
For those over 65, the primary election advantage is similarly large. That group makes up just 17 percent of the voting-age population, but it accounted for 33 percent of the 1998 primary voters.
Senior power has long been recognized as a factor in the general election, but the figures are especially pronounced in the primary, which typically attracts only about a third as many voters as the November contest.
In 1998 for instance, 61 percent of primary voters were over 50, compared with 42 percent in the general election. Similar proportions for primary and general elections hold true for the 1996 and 1994 elections.
The candidates say they are well aware of the numbers, but say a combination of other national and Minnesota-specific factors also has elevated senior issues in this campaign.
"The real key is not only that seniors vote but that the issues this year in general are more senior-oriented," said Jim Gelbmann, campaign manager for DFL Senate hopeful Mark Dayton, who has made concerns of seniors the center of his campaign.
Key issues this campaign include the growing cost of prescription drugs and debates about reforming the Social Security system.
Peter Wyckoff of the Minnesota Senior Federation says that about two-thirds of senior Minnesotans don't have coverage for prescription drugs.
But addressing seniors' concerns helps every generation, argues Bob Decheine, campaign manager for DFL candidate Mike Ciresi.
"When we do ads on drugs or Medicare, sure it affects seniors, but if government doesn't help these people, the people it falls on are right behind them," he said.
Decheine said Ciresi gets almost as many questions about drug prices from nonseniors as from seniors.
Each of the DFL candidates for Senate has focused on issues affecting seniors.
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