North Star Blog

Whit Ayres, August 25

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Boston Globe regarding President Trump and congressional Republicans:

“I think most of the Republicans in the Congress realize that they are going to have to take the ball and run with it if they are going to get anything accomplished,” says pollster and consultant Whit Ayres, who has advised Senators Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, and Bob Corker, among others.

“Most of the Republicans in the Senate are perfectly willing to do it at this point,” he continues. “Trump has attacked their leader, attacked members of the caucus. If anything, Trump has united the caucus by going after some of them so aggressively.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 21

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Hill regarding the differences in reactions between Senators and House members:

But in general, Trump has stronger support in the House, where GOP lawmakers tend to represent more conservative constituencies.

“Senators clearly are more visible elected officials, and almost all of them have more heterogeneous constituencies than House members. They have to appeal to a broader segment of the electorate than do House members, especially those in gerrymandered congressional districts,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, August 16

Jon McHenry’s comments in The Hill regarding tax reform messaging:

GOP lawmakers and the Trump administration often spend a considerable amount of time discussing how tax reform will boost economic growth and business competitiveness.

Strategists suggested that it’s important for Republicans to explain how more economic growth directly affects them, and some argued that lawmakers should cut to the chase and lead their tax-reform pitches with arguments about more jobs and more take-home income.

“The most important thing is to keep it on the day-to-day things that people are focused on, which in this case is jobs,” said Jon McHenry, vice president of the GOP polling firm North Star Opinion Research.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 11

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Hill regarding President Trump’s criticisms of Republicans in the Senate:

Whit Ayres, a GOP consultant who worked with Sen. Marco Rubio’s (Fla.) campaign in last year’s Republican presidential primary, echoed Cornyn’s comments about politics being a team sport.

“No one can succeed alone,” Ayres said. “Attacking members of your own team has never been known to be an effective strategy to produce victories.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 9

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Financial Times regarding “Real News” and President Trump’s efforts to maintain his favorable ratings with his base of support:

“Clearly he has very strong support still among the folks who voted for him and among Republicans overall. But there seems to be some slippage in the intensity of support; that is, movement from people who ‘strongly approve’ of his job performance to ‘somewhat approve’,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant.

He noted that Republicans were reluctant to give a negative approval rating for “one of their own”. Richard Nixon, for instance, still had above-water approval ratings among Republicans until the day he left office. “It’s more a matter of watching the intensity,” Mr Ayres said. 

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 7

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times about credibility in politics:

WASHINGTON — Whit Ayres, a Republican political consultant here, likes to tell his clients that there are “three keys to credibility.”

“One, never defend the indefensible,” he says. “Two, never deny the undeniable. And No. 3 is: Never lie.”

Would that politicians took his advice.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 28

Whit Ayres’ comments to US News and World Report regarding President Trump’s relationship with Congress:

“There is a reason why the famous political scientist Richard Neustadt said years ago that presidential power is the power to persuade. Not the power to command – to persuade,” says Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP consultant and pollster. Trump, Ayres says, tried to bully lawmakers and suffered a backlash. And it was predictable to anyone who can do the math, he notes.

“Many of these senators are more popular in their states than Donald Trump is. Most of the senators who won re-election in 2016 ran ahead of Donald Trump in their states,” Ayres adds. “That means that those senators tend to think the president owes them, rather than that they owe the president.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 19

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Charlotte Observer on the effect of not repealing Obamacare on the 2018 midterms:

Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster who will be involved in the 2018 midterms, said the health care flop won’t necessarily be catastrophic for the GOP — if they can net real, beneficial accomplishments on other complicated issues, such as tax reform.

“The best outcome is a set of concrete accomplishments that appeal broadly to a center-right coalition,” Ayres said. “If that set of accomplishments does not include an overhaul of the health care system, then something else, like tax reform, that truly stimulates the economy would be a good substitute. But it will be far easier to run campaigns in 2018 with a concrete set of accomplishments that Republicans can take to the electorate as a result of Republican control of the government.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 21

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post regarding Karen Handel’s victory in the GA 06 special election:

Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant and Handel strategist, underscored her success in turning the contest into a normal partisan choice. “The voters decided that Karen Handel was a better representative of their values, their interests and their perspective than Jon Ossoff,” he told me. “Karen Handel ran a relentlessly localized campaign that focused on that perspective.”

Notice those words: “relentlessly localized.” To pull this off, Handel had to keep her distance from Trump. Ayres put the matter diplomatically: “The president structured the broader environment but didn’t determine the outcome of this particular race.” Exactly.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 21

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Boston Globe regarding Karen Handel’s victory in the GA 06 special election:

But Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster in Washington, cautioned the party against taking too many lessons from the special races. Yes, Democrats would have received a jolt of energy had they been able to flip one of the four deeply red House districts that had special elections this year, but it was always unlikely. Plus, Democrats will have better chances of victory in some of the 2018 districts in more moderate states, such as California.

“My main takeaway is that the GOP can win in a challenging environment,” Ayres said in an interview. “The president structures a broader environment but doesn’t determine the outcome of the political races. . . . It all depends on which candidates are nominated and what campaigns they run.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May 31

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Atlantic regarding challenges for Republicans and Democrats amid demographic change:

“The long-term challenge for Republicans remains unchanged: They still have to figure out how to appeal to the growing proportion of the electorate that is non- white and college-educated,” said GOP pollster Whit Ayres, who worked during the Republican primaries for Trump rival Marco Rubio, the Florida senator. “Trump managed to slip the punch for one election, but that changed nothing about the long-term challenge. For the Democrats … they have to [find] a substantive message that appeals beyond identity politics, and they haven’t figured that out yet.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May 10

Whit Ayres’ comments to NPR on the potential electoral effects of a government shutdown:

“The government shutdown in October 2013 gave the Republican Party a huge hit from which it took more than a year to recover,” said veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres. “The drop in the Republican Party’s favorable rating was dramatic. We were fortunate that we had a year to repair the damage.”

“Most of the wisdom of pollsters comes from looking at history of past actions and all the history of the last government shutdown suggests that it was very bad news for Republicans,” said Ayres. “There’s no reason to think that the result will be any different in the future, especially since we control the entire government.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, May 6

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill regarding the need to sell the American Health Care Act:

Some Republicans more skeptical of Trump warn that everything is still to play for, however.

“Whenever you make a change this big, you need somebody who can make the rationale for it, who can convince the public to be patient and give it time to work,” said GOP strategist Dan Judy, whose firm North Star Opinion Research worked for Trump rival Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) in last year’s Republican presidential primary.

“Donald Trump has always talked about what a great salesman he is. Now is the time to prove it.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, April 17

Whit Ayres’ comments in Politico on the potential Ohio candidacy of CFPB head Richard Cordray:

“Ohio is still a swing state,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. “A number of Ohio counties swung sharply from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, but the fact that they had voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and probably 2008 means that they could very well swing back, depending on the particular candidates involved.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, April 14

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding President Trump’s policy positions:

“We’ve learned absolutely nothing about Donald Trump since he was inaugurated that wasn’t patently obvious for the last year and a half,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “Nothing new about his temperament, his knowledge base, his personality or his management style. Nothing.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 26

Whit Ayres’ comments for the Associated Press regarding the challenges of Republicans adapting to a united government:

“There are some folks in the Republican House caucus who have yet to make the pivot from complaining to governing,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “And this is a White House controlled by a politician who is not really trying to lead a party.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 19

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding the apparent contradiction between Trump supporters and Republicans regarding health care:

“This is a function of Donald Trump engineering a takeover of the Republican Party,” said Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster. “It was takeover more than assimilation, and this is the eminently predictable result.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, March 17

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill on the “wiretapping” claims of President Trump and reactions of Republican lawmakers:

“The reason I think you are seeing a little more pushback is that he made those [initial] claims, essentially counting on Congress to find the evidence,” said Dan Judy, a GOP strategist who worked with the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla).

“Lawmakers do not like to be hung out to dry on things like that because it causes them problems that are not of their own creation,” Judy added. “When all of a sudden the onus is put on them to prove it, they don’t appreciate that.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 17

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Los Angeles Times on the current political environment and President Trump:

“Rather than voters deciding what they think about abortion or guns or Russia and finding a candidate who fits those views, instead they’re settling on a candidate they like for whatever reason and adopting that candidate’s political views as their own,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster.

“Republicans used to be for free taxes and thought free trade was the best way to generate a growing economy. Now Republicans are against free trade because Donald Trump is against free trade,” he said.

The inclination to see things a certain, preferred way is not new; the polarity of Dartmouth and Princeton football fans showed as much.

But the increasingly adversarial nature of politics, the sorting of America into red and blue sanctuaries, the ability to gorge on self-reinforcing media and never hear a discouraging, or contrary, word seems to have made the phenomenon all the more pronounced.

Neither Hart nor Ayres, who have both spent decades sampling voter opinion, see a change anywhere in the offing.

“At the very least, you’re going to need a president who makes it his or her mission to try to overcome some of the polarization,” Ayres said.

That, of course, assumes he or she could get elected in the first place.

To read the full article, focused on partisanship reinforcing what voters “see,” please click here.

Dan Judy, February 11

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill regarding the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency:

Dan Judy, a GOP strategist whose firm worked for the presidential campaign of Trump’s primary rival Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) last year, noted that Republicans on Capitol Hill “have been watching this administration very carefully. Many of them were not supporters of his in the primaries, were lukewarm in the general election, and they have been watching and hoping that things would go well.”

So far, Judy said, what they’ve seen leaves something to be desired.

The rollout of the travel ban rejected this week in court “does not create a lot of confidence among Republicans on Capitol Hill, in Washington or around the country,” he said.

“Most of that [concern] is less on the policy — though there are certainly plenty of worries about the broadness of it — but more about the haphazard and slapdash way it was conceived and rolled out.”

But others, such as Dan Judy, are insistent that the president and his aides need to realize they erred.

“The most important thing is that they learn lessons from this,” he said. “If they do, future problems can be avoided. If they don’t, it is going to be one thing after another.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, January 14

Dan Judy’s quotes in The Hill regarding apparent disagreements between Donald Trump and his Cabinet nominees:

“There are a lot of opportunities for his cabinet nominees to influence him, to be the ones that set the direction of policy,” said Dan Judy, a GOP consultant whose firm worked for the 2016 presidential bid of one Trump rival, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“Generally, it is the president who sets the agenda,” Judy added. “In this case, I don’t think we are going to have a president who has particularly strong convictions on these issues.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, December 14

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill on Republicans examining the influence of Russia in the presidential election:

Dan Judy, a strategist and pollster whose firm, North Star Opinion Research, worked for Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, said that the controversy over the election interference in particular has already shown that there is “some daylight between Trump and congressional Republicans.”

“Congressional Republicans, many of whom campaigned on not being a rubber stamp for Trump, are going to live up to that promise,” he said.

Judy said that the success of Trump’s strategy [questioning Russian influence in the election] “depends on what people believe. People who support Trump are likely to believe it is just political nonsense. But people who look at him a little more skeptically will take it more seriously. Most people trust our intelligence agencies even if there have been some failures or troubles.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, December 14

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Chicago Tribune on the Trump cabinet and CEOs in politics:

What is key is “the style with which they led their prior organizations,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “A lot of CEOs are far from dictatorial leaders. A lot of them, in this day and age, are more consensus builders than they are dictatorial leaders.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 29

Whit Ayres’ column in US News on the challenges facing Republicans:

Providence has provided Republicans with an unexpected opportunity to accomplish goals many have wanted for years, by delivering control of both the presidency and Congress to the GOP. But our 2016 success should not blind us to the long-term challenges facing the party.

President-elect Donald Trump’s loss to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote means that Republicans have lost the popular vote for six of the last seven presidential elections. Trump won by threading a needle in the Electoral College, carrying four large states by one percentage point or less: Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, a total of 75 electoral votes.

To read the full column, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 23

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Wall Street Journal regarding the presidential election and race:

“Trump switched white voters in key states who were blue-collar primarily—coal counties, manufacturing counties,” the Republican strategist Whit Ayres told me this week. “These are blue-collar whites who voted for Barack Obama. And that’s a very uncomfortable thing to admit by the left. It’s much easier to say a ‘basket of deplorables’ elected Trump. But I’m sorry, that just does not conform to the data in those states that made a major swing from one party to the other.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 10

Whit Ayres’ comments to WBUR’s Here and Now show on the incumbency effect as it relates to 2016 polling:

“There’s a well-established principle in polling, with incumbents running for re-election, that what you see is what you get. In other words, if you’re at 48 as an incumbent, and your opponent is 45, we will frequently tell our incumbent candidates that they’re in trouble… The reason is that frequently incumbents get the number at the polls that they have on the final survey.

Their opponents are generally not saddled with the image of incumbency, so frequently, undecided voters go disproportionately to the challenger. And the issue here is whether or not Hillary Clinton was, if not technically an incumbent, effectively an incumbent running for the third term of Barrack Obama… It seems like more than a coincidence that the number she had in the average of polls at the end of the race is remarkably similar to where she ended up on the final ballot. But Trump made substantial gains, as frequently challengers do.”

To read the full excerpt, please click here.

Dan Judy, November 9

Dan Judy appeared on WBUR’s show On Point to talk about polling and the 2016 presidential election.

http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2016/11/09/election-2016-the-results

Dan’s comments start at the 28 minute mark.

Whit Ayres, October 27

Whit Ayres’ comments to CNN regarding Donald Trump and the Hispanic vote:

It’s exactly why Trump’s statements like, “we have some bad hombres here and we’re gonna get them out,” at the final presidential debate have GOP pollster Whit Ayres shaking his head.

“He started off his campaign with his announcement calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. He has run against non-whites his entire campaign, not only against Latinos, but against Muslims and against anybody who wasn’t already a part of the Republican base. That’s no way to win a presidential election,” Ayres said.

He believes Trump would need to win “somewhere north of 40% among Hispanics” to be competitive this year.

“George W. Bush got 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004, which is one of the reasons why he was re-elected,” Ayres said. “But Mitt Romney only got 27% of Hispanic vote in 2012, which is one reason why he lost.”

He points to his party’s so-called autopsy of what went wrong in 2012. The Republican National Committee wrote in its post-mortem report: “If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 26

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Financial Times regarding the politics of Obamacare rate increases:

Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist, said Monday’s forecast that Obamacare premiums were set to jump was “a gift to any Republican nominee”.

“It [confirms] what Republicans have said for six years now. Basically what’s happening is what Republicans have predicted ever since before this thing was passed,” he said.

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But he added that Mr Trump had consistently passed up opportunities to zero in on traditional Republican policy issues, such as healthcare, instead allowing himself to be drawn into unhelpful debates over his character and behaviour.

“A normal Republican candidate could take this gift and run with it and really make it an advantage going into the final two weeks of the election. But Trump has shown absolutely no ability to do that with any other issue so I don’t know why he would start that now.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, October 25

Dan Judy’s comments to CNN on oversampling and claims that polling is deliberately overstating the standing of Hillary Clinton:

“Pollsters just saw this and rolled our eyes,” said Dan Judy, a Republican pollster for North Star Opinion Research.

“This is the classic case of people using an intentional or unintentional misunderstanding of polling to pretend results they don’t like are invalid,” Judy said. “Most voters aren’t that sophisticated when it comes to ins and outs of sampling and statistics and polling. But there are a lot of people spreading this around who know better — or should know better.”

Here’s the reality about “oversampling.” Pollsters often dive deeper into certain subgroups (such as Latinos or African-Americans) to reduce their margins of error for those groups. Then they weight those groups to their actual proportion of the population.
Judy laid out an example.

If he were polling 600 likely voters in a state with a 13% Hispanic population, that would mean 78 of the voters surveyed were Hispanic. “The margin of error of that is extremely high — it’s over 10 points — and you can’t at all break that down. You can’t say, ‘What do Hispanic men or Hispanic women think?’ You couldn’t do that with any degree of mathematical certainty,” he said.

So, instead, Judy said he’d call 300 Hispanic voters — enough to look at “men and women, Republicans and Dems, age breakdowns, regional breakdowns, and in a state like Florida some ethnic breakdowns — Cubans, Puerto Ricans, South and Central Americans. And when you run your survey numbers, you weight that 300 back down to 78.”

To read the full article, please click here.