North Star Blog

Whit Ayres, May 24

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Atlantic regarding voting patterns in the South:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who works extensively across the South, says that white women, “particularly suburban white women … have been absolutely critical” to the GOP’s strength in states approving the abortion bans. Election Day exit polls showed that most white women in these areas joined big majorities of white men to provide insuperable leads for Republican candidates.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May 4 (Bloomberg)

Whit Ayres’ comments to Bloomberg on Republican senators’ influence over policy and nominees:

“There’s no mileage in Republican senators picking public fights with President Trump, but they will continue to exert their own will privately and behind the scenes, just as they have done with the Federal Reserve nominees,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant who has worked with a number of Republican senators.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres on Against the Grain

Whit Ayres joined Josh Kraushaar’s Against the Grain podcast to discuss Republican strategy in the Trump era:

https://www.nationaljournal.com/s/678157/against-the-grain-episode-30-on-ayres?

Whit Ayres, May 4

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Los Angeles Times regarding President Trump’s reelection prospects:

Indeed, “a normal president with these economic numbers would have job approval somewhere in the vicinity of 60%,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “But Donald Trump is a nontraditional president, and he has, at least at this point, severed the traditional relationship between economic well-being and presidential job approval.”

Currently, an average of just over 4 in 10 Americans approve of Trump’s performance in office, a number that has fluctuated in a very narrow range since early in his presidency.

“That said, a good economy obviously helps a president running for reelection,” Ayres said. “We have to see if it helps Donald Trump as much as it would have helped a traditional president.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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 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.”

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, 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?’”

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.

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.”

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.

Whit Ayres, October 3

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding diversity among GOP nominees and office holders:

Whit Ayres, a prominent Republican pollster who wrote a book called “2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in a New America,” said that while the party could benefit from more minority candidates, this election cycle could also just be an anomaly. Mr. Ayres, who worked with Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s failed presidential campaign in 2016, pointed to several minority Republicans who are currently in prominent offices, such as South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Ms. Haley, who stepped down as governor of South Carolina to become Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“We have many candidates both in Texas and Florida, like Marco Rubio, who have won a majority of the Hispanic vote in their campaign,” Mr. Ayres said. “So it’s perfectly possible for Republican candidates, without in any way moderating their fundamental principles, to succeed in the Hispanic community. But you have to try.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, September 28

Whit Ayres’s comments in The Los Angeles Times on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings:

“It’s depressing watching this because both of these people have been seriously and permanently damaged,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who has worked with one of the main conservative groups backing Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“It reminds me of a Shakespearean tragedy, where everybody dies in the end.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, September 24

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Associated Press on the Tennessee Senate contest:

“A lot of conservatives in Tennessee really like Phil Bredesen and really don’t want (New York Democratic Sen.) Chuck Schumer to be majority leader,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “How they wrestle with that tension likely determines the outcome of the Senate race.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 31

Whit Ayres’s comments in The Hill regarding strong economic growth and the midterm elections:

GOP strategist Whit Ayres highlighted the most recent, bullish data on employment and economic growth and praised Trump for having sought to make the most of that news.

“It would be helpful if the president continues to pound that message, and it would make it far easier for down-ballot Republicans to win reelection or for candidates for open seats to win election,” Ayres said.

“We have a very good story to tell, but it is difficult to tell that story if it is constantly obscured by the latest controversy,” he continued.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 27

Whit Ayres’s comments to the Associated Press on President Trump, presidential job approval, and the midterm elections:

“Donald Trump is a non-traditional president and he has severed the traditional tie between economic well-being and presidential job approval,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant and pollster.

“People are not evaluating Donald Trump based on the state of the economy,” he added. “They’re evaluating him based on his conduct and behavior in office. It appeals to Republicans and doesn’t appeal to independents and Democrats. And no change in the economy will alter his job approval so long as that relationship changes.”

The president’s approval rating is of significant concern to his party: Largely because of Trump, Republicans face even more threatening political headwinds than is typical for the party in power as they head into November’s midterm elections.
For nearly his entire presidency, Trump’s approval rating hasn’t fluctuated much outside a six-point range between 38 percent and 44 percent. It was 41 percent on Friday, according to the average of polling data by FiveThirtyEight, a web site of statistical analyses, as the president stood on the South Lawn and credited Republicans’ tax cuts and his regulatory rollbacks and tariffs for “an economic turnaround of historic proportions.”

“If he did a lot more of what he did this morning in touting the strong economy, it would make it easier for Republican down-ballot candidates to win re-election or to be elected to open seats,” Ayres said. “There is a very good story to tell. But it’s hard to tell that story if the news is being drowned out by the latest controversy.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 28

Whit Ayres’s comments in The Washington Post regarding the Georgia gubernatorial contest:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, noted that while the Atlanta suburbs are not as conservative as the rest of the state, they are more conservative than the precincts in Northern Virginia that are becoming Democratic strongholds. A Democrat who was senior in Clinton’s campaign also expressed skepticism that Georgia is as ripe for the Democrats as some others want to believe.

Ayres also pointed to another difference: “Brian Kemp is not Roy Moore. Stacey Abrams is not Ralph Northam.” By that he meant that Kemp carries none of the baggage of Moore, who was accused of molesting a young woman many years ago, and that Abrams is considerably more liberal than Northam.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 27

Whit Ayres’s comments to McClatchy news service on the Trump effect in Republican primaries:

When it comes to moving Republican votes, said veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres, a Trump endorsement is “determinative.”

“At this point,” he said, ticking through a number of primary contest results, “a Trump endorsement can totally change the complexion of a race.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 22

Whit Ayres’s comments to NBC Los Angeles on fallout from the Russia summit:

Yes, each time Trump has weathered the criticism. Will it be any different now?

“The only honest answer to that question is ‘Who knows?’” said Whit Ayres, the president North Star Opinion Research and an adviser to top Republicans. “Past controversies that would have sunk most presidents have had no significant effect on this president’s job approval. So until there is hard evidence to the contrary, the safest bet is that this will have no effect as well.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 19

Whit Ayres’s comments to Bloomberg on Republican reaction to President Trump’s remarks on Russia:

Republican strategist and pollster Whit Ayres said he wasn’t sure how the politics of Trump’s remarks would play out. “Based upon the job approval numbers thus far, Trump supporters are predisposed to believe what President Trump says.”

Siding with the president is an “easy call” for Republican candidates in states and districts where Trump enjoys majority approval, he said. But Democrats are making a play for control of the House by defeating Republicans in areas that are more closely divided.

“The challenge comes in states and districts where the Republican candidate needs all of the Trump voters plus a significant proportion of the people who do not approve of the president’s job performance.” Ayres said. “That becomes very tricky.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 28

Whit Ayres’ comments in USA Today regarding the political impact of Justice Kennedy’s retirement:

Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster, said quickly confirming a new justice before the Nov. 6 midterms could prove crucial to Senate Republicans.

“It will make even more compelling the Republican argument that they have delivered on their promises and future control of the Senate is critical to accomplish conservative goals,” he said.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 23

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post regarding President Trump’s approach on trade and immigration:

That means most of the midterm action is taking place in contested, Republican-held House districts and a couple of swing states, such as Florida and Nevada, where Trump’s rhetoric has wedged members of his party into a most uncomfortable position — between his own high popularity among Republicans on one hand and swing voters opposed to his bellicosity on trade and immigration on the other.

“It probably helps Republicans running against Senate incumbents in the deepest red states but makes life more challenging for Republican incumbents in more-diverse suburban districts,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 19

Whit Ayres’ comments on the Trump Administration border detention policy was cited as The New York Times‘ Quote of the Day:

“Somehow I don’t think that putting kids in cages is likely to go over very well with suburban moms,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster uneasy about running on the culture wars. Mr. Ayres said his party should campaign on “the concrete accomplishments of a Republican-held government.”

“A fabulously strong economy, a record stock market, ISIS defeated and a world without any major wars that are killing lots of Americans on a weekly basis,” he said, laying out the case.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May 10

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post regarding the public’s focus — or lack thereof — on scandals:

“The proof is in the pudding,” said Republican pollster Whit ­Ayres. But, he added, “we know that most Americans simply do not care about so much of the drama that consumes the Beltway. It’s all a matter of what results are produced.”

To read the full article, please click here.