North Star Blog

Whit Ayres, February 28

Whit Ayres’ comments to Politico on the 2021 CPAC meeting in Orlando:

“Donald Trump remains the leader of the populist wing of the party, which he grew into a dominant force in Republican primaries, although never a majority force in the country,” said Whit Ayres, the longtime Republican pollster. “But because Trump dominates the populist wing, the folks who are members of that wing are going to continue to promote whatever he wants to promote at the time. That means they’re still hanging on to this myth that the election was stolen.”

To read the full article please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 26

Whit Ayres’ comments in USA Today about CPAC:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster and consultant, sees the split as one between a “pro-governing” wing of the party and the “pro-populist” wing.

The populists, he said, are more interested in being anti-establishment, anti-immigrant, and anti-media. Trump fused those people into a force that won the Electoral College in 2016, but could not get him over the top in 2020.

Now, “the Republican Party is seriously split between the governing faction and the populist faction,” Ayres said, and CPAC “will be a celebration of the populist faction.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 26

Whit Ayres’ comments in Bloomberg about a failure of bipartisanship:

“Seven Republican senators just voted to convict a president of their own party of impeachable offenses — if you can’t get a single one of those Republicans, you are not trying,” said Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster, referring to Trump’s impeachment trial this month. “They will need Republican support for future initiatives. Why stiff them coming out of the gate?”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 18

Whit Ayres’ comments to Newsweek on Florida’s COVID response and Governor Ron DeSantis’ approval ratings:

Whit Ayres, the founder of North Star Opinion Research, counts DeSantis among the politicians for whom his company has provided messaging advice. DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic “appears to be at least as effective if not more effective” than other states that imposed stricter lockdowns, Ayres said.

“Governor DeSantis has done an admirable job of handling this pandemic from day one,” Ayres told Newsweek. “He has managed to keep a lid on the number of cases per capita while at the same time keeping the economy more open than either New York or California.”

DeSantis “has also done a better job of getting the vaccine distributed” than Cuomo and Newsom, Ayres said. “Based on the record of controlling the pandemic while keeping the economy going, Governor DeSantis has one of the very best records of any governor,” he added.

Earlier this week, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican, suggested during an appearance on Fox News that DeSantis would be a “strong potential presidential candidate” in 2024. Though it’s too early to tell who would dominate a 2024 field, Ayres said it made sense for DeSantis as the leader of a swing state to consider a run.

“He’s a very talented guy with a strong record from one of the country’s largest states,” Ayres said.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 14

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding Republican senators voting to convict President Trump of impeachment charges:

“Two are retiring, and three are not up until 2026, and who knows what the world will look like five years from now,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “It looked pretty different five years ago than it did today. All seven of them have a measure of independence that those who have to run in 2022 in a closed Republican primary just don’t have.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, February 10

Whit Ayres appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss polling and President Trump’s impeachment trial:

https://www.npr.org/2021/02/10/966498568/how-the-polls-have-differed-between-trumps-1st-and-2nd-impeachment-trials

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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”.

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, November 9

Dan Judy’s comments to The Hill on perceptions of the presidential contest:

Biden’s victory did not come with coattails. Republicans will hold their Senate majority unless Democrats can win two runoff elections in Georgia in January. The GOP has gained seats in the House.

“I have to say I was surprised by how well he did,” Republican strategist Dan Judy said of Trump. “He got more votes — not just in raw votes but in percentage terms — than he did four years ago. Given that he has been a historically unpopular president, that is pretty surprising.”

At the same time, Judy cautioned against giving too much credit to Trump’s performance. 

He noted the scale of his popular vote defeat and emphasized, as did other sources, how public perception of the election’s message might have been very different had the exact same results been delivered more quickly.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, November 5

Dan Judy’s comments to Talking Points Memo regarding the Georgia runoff contests:

Another factor adding uncertainty to the runoffs is the lack of a top of the ticket. Whichever way the presidential election goes, neither Biden nor Trump will be providing any coattails in January. 

A potential Biden victory would give an edge to the GOP, according to Dan Judy, Vice President of North Star Opinion Research, a consultancy for Republican candidates. Republicans who don’t like Trump will be freed up to vote for a Republican candidate without him on the ballot or in the White House, Judy posited. 

“I’d say that both Democratic candidates certainly have a chance in the runoffs, but the Republicans will be favored,” Judy said. “Partisans on both sides will be very fired up, but I believe the prospect of divided government will be very attractive to a lot of independents in the state.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 4

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Financial Times regarding the key moment of the 2020 presidential contest:

Mr Clyburn’s endorsement of Mr Biden was “probably the single most important moment in the history of this presidential election,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist. “If that hadn’t happened, Bernie Sanders would likely have won the nomination.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Outlook for 2020 Elections

Jon McHenry, October 30

Jon McHenry’s comments in The Hill regarding “shy Trump voters” and “propriety” polling methods:

“[Trafalgar] doesn’t disclose their ‘proprietary digital methods’ so I can’t really evaluate what they’re doing,” said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research. “They’re far enough out on a limb that a year from now, we’ll all remember if they were very right or very wrong.”

McHenry said he does not think there are many “shy” Trump supporters who would lie about their intentions.

Rather, there is concern about a “skewed response rate pattern,” whereby Trump voters would be less likely to participate in a survey or answer the phone when a pollster calls.

Still, McHenry noted that this wouldn’t be an automatic benefit for Trump. In Pennsylvania, for instance, he found Democrats were less likely to answer the phone than their registration would suggest.

“I can’t definitively say there is no response bias, but I’m skeptical of it, and it certainly wouldn’t be enough to explain the national deficits we’re seeing,” he said.

To read the fully article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 27

Whit Ayres’ comments to The Wall Street Journal regarding immigration as a salient election issue:

“Immigration was a significant issue primarily for Republicans in 2016 and 2018 because of the president’s promotion of the issue,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster. “Given how much the pandemic has overwhelmed our country and disrupted almost every aspect of our lives, it makes sense that immigration and other issues would fade into the background.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 25

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding changing demographics and political contribution patterns:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who studies demographic trends, said “the donations mirror voting patterns,” as white voters with college degrees have swung sharply toward the Democrats in the last decade, with the trend expected to accelerate further in 2020 with Mr. Trump on the ticket.

“It makes perfect sense,” Mr. Ayres said of the donation data. “Basically, Republicans have traded larger, more upscale, fast-growing suburban counties for smaller, down-scale, slower-growing rural counties. That’s not a promising trend for future victories.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, October 21

Jon McHenry’s comments regarding Florida as a must-win state for President Trump:

Come election night, Mr McHenry said how Florida votes could be indicative of the final result. The actual result will not be confirmed on Nov 3, but much later when all votes are counted.

“The cheat sheet is if President Trump hasn’t won Florida, while it might not be time to go to bed, it’s certainly time to brush your teeth and put on some pyjamas because it is very tough for him to win re-election if he doesn’t win in Florida,” he said.

To read the full article, explaining battleground states to an overseas audience, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 20

Whit Ayres’ comments to McCatchy News Services regarding reelection campaigns as referenda on incumbents:

“The president’s best scenario for re-election was making the election a choice between the incumbent and an unacceptable alternative,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “But both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have done a good job making the election a referendum on Donald Trump rather than a choice.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 22

Whit Ayres’ comments to Reuters regarding Republicans defending the Senate majority:

But not all is doom and gloom for Republicans, who believe they can still eke out a 51-seat majority by capturing Democratic seats in Alabama and Michigan and denying Democrats victory in North Carolina, Iowa and other states with strong Republican constituencies.

“We’ve got eight to ten races that are margin-of-error races. There’s no way in the world you could suggest that those are somehow over,” said Whit Ayres, a leading Republican pollster. “They’re far from out of reach.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, October 16

Dan Judy’s comments to The Hill regarding President Trump’s campaigning in the election’s home stretch:

The president’s tendency to return to the topic of Clinton’s emails — he raised the subject during a friendly interview with radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh last week — is especially perplexing, even to Republicans.

“He is not running against Hillary Clinton, which is unfortunate for him because she was massively unpopular,” said GOP strategist Dan Judy. “He is doing what he did in 2016, and it worked, but I just don’t see it getting him any extra votes.”

Trump does have more fertile areas to plow. He consistently performs better on the economy than on any other issue. There is a widespread belief, in and beyond Republican circles, that a reelection campaign fought on that territory would give him the strongest chance of success.

The problem, of course, is that even many conservatives don’t believe Trump has the desire or self-discipline to stick with such a message.

“When there is a conspiracy theory about the death of Osama bin Laden you can tweet, why talk about the economy?” Dan Judy asked wryly. “He is not doing himself any favors.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 19

Whit Ayres’ comments to CNN on Republican Senate candidates running ahead of the President in their state:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, recently told CNN that Barrett is “an extraordinarily impressive woman who, if she has any political impact, will help Republicans in close races.” 

“We know it’s entirely possible for Republican senators running for reelection to run ahead of the President,” said Ayres. “The question is, ‘how far ahead of the President can they run?'”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 12

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times on the final weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign:

“At the end of the 2016 campaign, the president apparently cut back on his Twitter messages and became somewhat less visible at the time the Comey letter was becoming more and more prominent,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, referring to a letter that the director of the F.B.I. at the time, James B. Comey, sent to Congress after discovering a tranche of Hillary Clinton’s emails on a laptop used by Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of one of her top aides.

That letter is widely seen as affecting voter sentiment about Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee that year, late in the campaign, and no similar event has so far hurt Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has told aides he wants to be on the campaign trail every day and he has continued with his slashing, acerbic tweets.

“It’s not clear that seeing more of the president is necessarily a help to his campaign,” Mr. Ayres said.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, September 16

Whit Ayres’ comments in the New Statesman about changing demographics and their electoral impact in Arizona and Texas:

“The narrative [that the states will swing this year] persists because of the constantly changing demographics of the Sun Belt,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster at North Star Opinion Research. In particular, as Ben Walker wrote elsewhere in the New Statesman, Hispanic voters are growing in number, especially in Arizona and Texas.

Arizona and Texas are “at different stages of their evolution”, Ayres said. Arizona is much further along than Texas. In Arizona, Democrats could pick up another Senate seat (one Arizona Senate seat is already held by a Democrat) and “maybe even [carry] the state at the presidential level”.

Texas, he said, is a cycle or two away from going Democratic, “but given the massive uncertainty created by the pandemic, nothing would surprise me in electoral outcomes” in the state.

“The fact that we are even talking about Arizona, Texas… possibly going Democratic really demonstrates the impact of demographic change,” Ayres added, “and increases exponentially the importance for Republicans of reaching out aggressively to new non-white voters.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, September 15

Jon McHenry’s comments to STAT News regarding President Trump’s proposal regarding prescription drug pricing:

“It’s a very savvy political move,” said Jon McHenry, the vice president of North Star Opinion Strategies, a Republican-aligned polling firm. “What you see is voters saying: ‘OK, he’s actually trying to do something on drug prices.’ That’s something that the Obama administration didn’t do, that’s something that Congress hasn’t taken on. So he probably does get some credit for following up on something that he said he would do during the [2016] election — without anyone getting to judge, ultimately, whether it’s good policy.”

To read the full article, please click here.