Whit Ayres, March 1

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding climate change:

“A lot of thoughtful Republicans have accepted the reality of climate change and are wrestling with questions of policy,” Whit Ayres, a prominent Republican pollster, said. 

Mr. Ayres noted that many Republicans had concerns about climate change policies like taxing or regulating coal and oil pollution. But he said that questioning the foundational science of climate change could become a political liability.

“There are perfectly legitimate questions to be raised about whether a dollar spent fighting climate change is better spent on health care or education,” Mr. Ayres said. “But there are no longer credible questions to be raised about the existence of climate change. If the White House ends up there, that is simply not credible.”

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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.”

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Whit Ayres, February 7

Whit Ayres’ comments to Time regarding President Trump and border security:

On the issue of the moment, the Feb. 15 spending deadline, one way out would be for Trump to accept a deal that boosts border-security spending without funding a wall. “If he can get a bill enacted that truly does strengthen the border, then he will be able to sell that to his base without having an actual 2,000-mile-long physical wall,” says Whit Ayres, a GOP consultant at North Star Opinion Research. “The key is making the border more secure.”

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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.

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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.”

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Whit Ayres, January 9

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Hill regarding Republicans and health care:

“Health care is such a significant part of our economy and the challenges are growing so great with the retirement of the baby boomers and the disruption brought about by ObamaCare that you can’t just cede a critically important issue to the other side,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

“Republicans need a positive vision about what should happen to lower costs, expand access and protect pre-existing conditions,” he added. “You’ve got to be able to answer the question, ‘So what do you think we should do about health care?’”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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Dan Judy, November 7

Dan Judy’s comments to CNBC on the “Kavanaugh effect” in the midterm elections:

Dan Judy, Republican pollster and vice president at North Star Opinion, said, “The fight over Justice Kavanaugh brought the stakes of this election into stark relief, and helped get Republicans motivated behind Senate candidates in ways they weren’t before.”

Judy added that “opposing Kavanaugh exposed a number of Democrats who were claiming centrist records in very conservative states.”

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