Whit Ayres, February 27

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Christian Science Monitor on congressional votes to stop President Trump’s emergency declaration:

“There’s a real tension here,” says Whit Ayres, a longtime GOP pollster, whose clients include Sens. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida and Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee. “We’ve never had, to my knowledge, a president ask Congress to appropriate money for something, Congress has refused, and the president has declared an emergency to get around a decision of Congress.”

When Trump declared victory over the Islamic State and ordered the withdrawal of troops in Syria and Afghanistan, the Senate passed a bill strongly opposing the move.

Mr. Ayres, the pollster, says those unusual rebukes were only possible because the president’s position was so far off from most of his party’s. The national emergency declaration, on the other hand, highlights competing priorities within the Republican Party: enhancing border security, and upholding the Constitution and the separation of powers.

“This is a vote that will be remembered because of its constitutional implications and its separation of powers implications,” says Ayres. “You’re not just voting for the next election, you’re voting in many ways for your historical record.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 5

Whit Ayres’ comments to Ron Brownstein of CNN regarding President Trump’s ability to appeal beyond his base and win reelection in 2020:

Absent a major world event, or a dramatic change in the economy, few in either party expect those hardened patterns to shift much by the 2020 election. Republican pollster Whit Ayres offered a view widely shared among professionals on both sides when he was asked how much capacity Trump has to expand his support by the next election. “Virtually no ability,” Ayres said, “without a change in behavior or some stunning new event that shocks the political system.”

But the stability of attitudes toward Trump underscores how unlikely he is to accomplish any of those things before 2020. And his single-minded focus on the border wall — which has almost never attracted support from more than 45% of the country in any major poll during his presidency — illuminates how limited is his commitment to even pursuing such unity. “He is very comfortable reinforcing and energizing the people who are already with him at the expense of reaching beyond them to those who are not already on his side,” notes Ayres.

Like many Republicans, Ayres believes Democrats could choose a polarizing nominee “who is incapable of consolidating” the roughly 55% or slightly more of the country that has consistently expressed resistance to Trump. That could encourage some of the voters uneasy about Trump to splinter toward a third party candidate, such as Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, who is openly pondering a bid. Even in that scenario, Ayres notes, Trump would face a very tight squeeze if he can’t expand his support beyond the roughly 45% of the vote he won in 2016 and GOP House candidates nationwide captured last fall. “The real question is whether you can draw to an inside straight twice in a row,” he says.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 5

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Christian Science Monitor regarding President Trump’s options on immigration policy:

Trump could potentially even be a “Nixon in China” when it comes to immigration, says GOP pollster Whit Ayres. President Richard Nixon was able to visit China in 1972 because of his strong anti-communist stance.

Immigration has dogged American presidents for decades, but “President Trump could actually get something accomplished,” Mr. Ayres says. “He can take risks other presidents couldn’t, and survive politically with his base.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, December 29

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post on the 2020 presidential election:

Some Republican pollsters have also been watching the president’s tactics with concern, noting that there is little evidence he has grown his electoral coalition after the 2016 election, when he won the White House despite losing the popular vote.

“The problem is that the base is nowhere close to a majority of the nation,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. “In a government of the people, for the people and by the people, it sure helps to have a majority of the people behind what you are trying to do.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, December 18

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill on the possibility of a government shutdown:

“We keep having these debates over a shutdown, it seems, every year or two,” said GOP strategist Dan Judy. “There is a chunk of the party that says, ‘This time will be different’. And it never works.”

Judy added that any move toward a shutdown might have some appeal to the president’s base. But he said its negative ramifications would be far more severe.

“It will certainly, I think, motivate the hardcore, hardcore base — but that is not the sort of voters that Republicans are going to need to prevail in 2020 and beyond,” he said.

“We are going to need the voters in the middle, as well as the more moderate voters in our own party, who first and foremost want the government to work.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, December 7

Whit Ayres’s comments in The Hill regarding the 2020 electoral environment:

“The 2018 Senate map was the most favorable map for Republicans in our lifetime, so by comparison any other map is going to be more competitive,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

But Ayres warned that it’s far too early to predict the political environment leading up to Election Day 2020.

“It’s exceedingly difficult for me to get any sense of what 2020 will be like until we know two things: what’s in the Mueller report and who the Democrats are going to nominate,” Ayres said, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“If they nominate some far-left-wing whack job that is unacceptable to the broad middle of America, then you have a very different dynamic than if they nominate someone who is within shouting distance of the political center,” he said.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 4

Whit Ayres’ comment in The New York Times on President Trump’s appeal to base voters in the midterm elections:

Mr. Trump, who promised after his victory in 2016 to be a president for “all Americans,” has been fixated this year on visiting states that were critical to his Electoral College win and doubling down on nurturing his homogeneous base in those places. Many Republicans privately worry that in terms of the future health of their party, the outreach and agenda they are pursuing feels a lot like the president’s travel footprint: provincial and small.

“No one has repealed the long-term demographic trends in the country,” said Whit Ayres, a prominent Republican pollster. “At some point, Republicans are going to have to reach out beyond the base if they hope to win a majority of the popular vote in the future.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 1

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Atlantic on President Trump’s focus during the midterms:

Trump’s closing emphasis on culture may, in fact, represent a kind of triage for the GOP that effectively concedes large suburban losses in the House, but tries to protect more rural and blue-collar districts, as well as GOP Senate candidates in states fitting the latter description. “That’s not an unreasonable interpretation of it,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. Trump’s cultural messaging, he added, “may help in some rural blue-collar districts, but it sure doesn’t help in the suburban districts that are so important to help keep the House.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 4

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Los Angeles Times regarding partisan views of the Kavanaugh hearings:

“Like so many events today, people view this through their partisan filters to reinforce what they already think,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “The main difference we’ve seen since the Kavanaugh hearings is an increase in Republican enthusiasm. It doesn’t quite match the sky-high Democratic enthusiasm, but they have helped to close the gap in intensity.”

To read the full article, please click here.

How to Talk About the Mueller Investigation

Republican candidates in deeply red states and districts who can win elections with only Republican votes can adopt Donald Trump’s perspective on the Mueller investigation. But Republican candidates who need both Republican and Independent votes to win can appeal to both groups with the following arguments:

• Nobody is above the law, not even the President.

• The Mueller investigation should follow the facts wherever they lead.

• Donald Trump should not shut down the Mueller investigation, because doing so would make him look like he is guilty of wrongdoing and has something to hide.

To read the full memo, please see below.

Mueller Messaging Memo