Whit Ayres, February 3 LA Times

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Los Angeles Times about GOP factions:

The main battlefield in the war is likely to become the ballot box, veteran Republican strategist Whit Ayres told me.

“The party is split between a governing faction and a populist faction,” he said. “The populist faction was there before Trump. They aren’t going away. They’ve become a dominant force in Republican primaries. They aren’t dominant among elected officials — but they may be, eventually, if they succeed in winning elections.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be resolved by 2022,” Ayres added. “It’s going to take until at least 2024. You’re going to have to go through a presidential cycle.”

“The question is: Do we continue to nominate crazy right-wing populists who go on to lose the general election?” said Ayres, who has advised Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

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Whit Ayres, February 3

Whit Ayres’ comments in Newsweek about GOP in-fighting:

Whit Ayres, a longstanding GOP pollster and North Star Opinion Research founder, took a similar view. The political consultant said it remained to be seen whether the Republican Party would still be a “viable political force” or make the fatal decision to split into two separate entities.

Asked for his view of the party’s makeup, Ayres said Trump had successfully expanded the populist wing of the GOP and built it to be the new “dominant force” in the party. Ayres cautioned that all was not over for the so-called “governing” faction.

Speaking about the battle between Cheney and the Trumpian faction on Capitol Hill, the pollster said: “It’s a small skirmish in the larger war. It’s a skirmish that, at this point, is confined to the House of Representatives’ Republican caucus”

“Just because you have a faction dominating the House caucus does not mean it’s dominating the entire party.”

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Whit Ayres, January 11

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post regarding the future of the Republican party:

“January 6 is the opening battle in the war for the soul of the Republican Party,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “The party is now split between the governing wing and the populist wing even more sharply than it was during the tea party period.”

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2020 Post-Election Presentation

Dan Judy, January 12

Dan Judy’s comments to Talking Points Memo regarding calls for unity after the attack on the Capitol:

Dan Judy, Vice President of North Star Opinion Research, a consultancy for Republican candidates, told TPM that the “unity” pushers can be put in two categories. The first, Republicans who opposed Trump’s rhetoric on election fraud and voted to uphold the Electoral College certification, have at least a “credible and morally consistent argument” when they say that an impeachment would further rip apart the country, he said. 

Not so for the other Republicans, those that fed into and amplified Trump’s conspiracy theories, he added. 

“Calls for unity from them with no acknowledgement of the President’s part in this simply have no credibility beyond the hardest-core Trump base,” he said.

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Whit Ayres, January 6

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Atlantic regarding electoral changes in Georgia:

The historical context is that in Georgia, as in most southern states that voted reliably Democratic for the first century after the Civil War, Republicans established their initial beachheads in what were then “white flight” suburbs around Atlanta. Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who once lived and worked in Georgia, notes that when the GOP started seriously competing with Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s, Gwinnett and Cobb were the party’s first strongholds. “As Republicans, we used to get 60-plus percent in Cobb and Gwinnett,” Ayres told me. By contrast, both Warnock and Ossoff won almost exactly 60 percent of the vote in Gwinnett, and between 56 and 57 percent of the vote in Cobb.

Instead, Perdue and (especially) Loeffler tried to reinvent themselves as born-again Trump-style populists. Both supported the president unreservedly—to the point of denouncing the state’s Republican election officials and backing challenges to the November vote that would invalidate the results, and disenfranchise the voters, in their own state. The apex—or nadir—of their reinvention came on Monday night, the day before the election, when Loeffler (in person) and Perdue (via video) shared a stage in rural northwest Georgia with Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican representative who has openly embraced the corrosive QAnon conspiracy. To see “two corporate executives standing on the same stage with [the] QAnon congresswoman creates a head-snapping picture,” Ayres told me.

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Whit Ayres, January 5

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Los Angeles Times regarding splits in the Republican Party:

“The divisions we’re seeing now reflect those in the period of 2010 to 2016 between tea party conservatives and governing conservatives,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “Donald Trump tapped into the populist elements of the Tea Party movement and expanded and exacerbated the division.”

It’s a split that has been hard for any Republican leader to straddle, Ayres said, because the populist wing doesn’t necessarily want a specific policy agenda so much as it wants a party that visibly fights perceived enemies.

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Whit Ayres, December 8

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times on voting patterns in the Atlanta suburbs:

Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster in Georgia, said Republican erosion in the inner suburbs — and to a lesser degree the conservative exurbs — has blunted the advantage Republicans have enjoyed in runoff elections in the past. While white evangelicals and religious conservatives remain a core of the Republican base, and make up a portion of the suburban electorate, some Republicans worry such issue-driven voters may be put off by the Senators’ willingness to dip into Trump-induced conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Mr. Ayres said both sides have hurdles to overcome before January. Republicans have a president who is sowing discord within their party and Democrats need to mobilize communities that have typically sat out nonpresidential elections. They can’t, he said, count on the same coalition that turned out in November.

“Are these now permanent Democratic voters? No, not at all,” he said. “They’re in transition, and they were put off in large part by the conduct and behavior of the President.”

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Whit Ayres, November 17

Whit Ayres’ comments to The New Statesman regarding ticket splitting:

That leads into the second possibility, which is that Republicans did as well as they did in Congress because they wanted a check on Biden and the more progressive wing of the Democrats. “There were a number of voters who apparently voted for Joe Biden at the top of the ticket, but Republican candidates for House and Senate seats,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster at North Star Opinion Research, in the “hope that Republicans would be a moderating force on Biden”.

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Whit Ayres, November 19

Whit Ayres’ comments to The Washington Post regarding the two U.S. Senate runoff contests in Georgia:

Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who has worked on many campaigns in Georgia, expressed skepticism that Democrats could improve their performance over the general election, which drew historic turnout because of the strong feelings about Trump.

“If they didn’t participate in one of the most intense elections in our lifetime, it strikes me as a tall order to get someone who didn’t care enough to vote in this election to come back to vote in a runoff in January,” Ayres said.

Republicans will be hyper-focused on convincing the voters that cast ballots for Loeffler and Perdue the first time around to return to the polls, Ayres said. But some of those voters may be turned off by the two Republican senators’ support for allegations of fraud in the 2020 election in Georgia, he added.

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