News Clips

Reporters and analysts rely on the expertise and comments of team members at North Star Opinion Research to give their stories depth and strategic perspective.  Read clips from recent articles on pressing political news.

Whit Ayres, September 26

Whit Ayres’ comments in the International Business Times regarding whether the debates affect the election:

“Historically, the debates have not overcome the fundamentals of the election,” Republican analyst Whit Ayers told CNN. “That said, there have been debate moments that we can all remember that have galvanized the election and have led to one candidate doing substantially better.”

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Whit Ayres on CNN’s Party People Podcast

Whit Ayres joined Mary Katherine Ham and Kevin Madden on their Party People podcast to discuss Republican efforts to appeal beyond the base.

To read the article, please click here.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Whit Ayres, September 4

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness:

It’s not only a matter of winning the White House. “She should do whatever she can to whittle down the suspicion that she is not honest or trustworthy, as much for governing as for winning the election,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “When two-thirds of the people think she’s dishonest and untrustworthy, that’s a real problem.”

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Whit Ayres, September 3

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Associated Press regarding Republicans running as a check-and-balance on Hillary Clinton:

“If they do it deftly, it’s not risky. You don’t go out trashing anyone,” said GOP pollster Whit Ayres. Instead, Republicans should just say, “‘We’re going to need a Senate and House that’s a check on whoever’s president,’ given the unpopularity of the two major nominees.”

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Whit Ayres, September 1

Whit Ayres’ comments to The Fiscal Times on Donald Trump’s immigration speech:

Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster and political adviser who backed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida during the GOP presidential primaries, said that it may now be impossible for Trump to piece together a winning coalition in November, even while the polls show him closing in on Clinton.

“He went back to square one, where his uncompromising tone on immigrants and illegal immigration is locked in even more so than before,” Ayres said in an interview today. “That’s going to make it virtually impossible to expand his Hispanic support. Consequently, it will also make it difficult for him to expand his vote among African Americans, Asians, and other non-white minorities.”

Related: Is Trump Dumping His Plan to Deport 11 Million Illegal Immigrants?

“He spent the entire time in his Phoenix speech preaching to the converted,” Ayres added.

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Whit Ayres, August 26

From Whit Ayres’ column in The Washington Post, titled “How Republican Candidates Can Survive the Trump Train Wreck”:

… The opening was provided for Republicans by the Trump Convention, which bore little resemblance to a Republican convention. When both living former Republican presidents, the two most recent Republican presidential nominees, the popular host-state Republican governor and most of the other 2016 Republican presidential candidates all refused to show up or be seen with Trump, it could hardly be classified as a Republican event. Even President Obama, who has an incentive to link Republican candidates to Trump, said the convention “wasn’t particularly Republican — and it sure wasn’t conservative.”

Since then, the Trump brand has become increasingly distinct from the Republican brand. …

Preserving that level of split-ticket voting, with a substantial number of voters supporting Clinton for president and Republicans down-ballot, is the key to maintaining Republican control of the Senate.

How can Republicans preserve those margins? Localize, localize, localize. Successful Southern Democrats gave no more than lip service to their party’s liberal presidential nominees, while using the advantages of incumbency to highlight specific ways their service in Washington benefited their constituents.

To see the article, on the Post website, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 26

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Associated Press on voter attitudes regarding immigration reform:

“The electorate is conflicted and that’s a fundamental problem,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “This is such an emotional issue that reason and facts have very little to do with how people stand.” …

Ayres recalled a focus group in the Deep South during which conservative voters complained about illegal immigrants. One man said he wanted them to pay taxes, work and learn English. Ayres told the man that was precisely the bipartisan proposal that had passed the Senate in 2013 and was being held up in the Republican-controlled House. “But that’s amnesty,” the man responded. “I don’t support that.”

“That’s when I turned around and cracked my head against the wall,” Ayres said.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 25

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding Donald Trump’s approach to immigration:

“He finally figured out that you can’t win a national election with just white voters,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who worked for Mr. Rubio’s campaign.

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Whit Ayres, August 21

Whit Ayres’ comments to The Fiscal Times on the political impact of the Zika virus spread in Florida:

Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster who advised Rubio during his presidential bid, believes that voters will be far more discerning in assessing blame in the election.

“It depends on what Republican and what they’ve done about it, and whether or not they’ve made a serious effort to try to address it,” Ayres said in an interview. He stressed that Rubio has been a leader in the fight for funding for Zika treatment in Florida.

“I don’t buy this argument that, okay, there’s a public health crisis and now they’re going to take it out on one party rather than the other when both parties are part of the problem of not moving off this issue,” he said. “People are going to make individual judgments about individual candidates.”

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Whit Ayres, August 19

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding demographics and Donald Trump’s campaign:

“If you set out to design a strategy to produce the lowest popular vote possible in the new American electorate of 2016, you would be hard-pressed to do a better job than Donald Trump has,” said Whit Ayres, a pollster who has advised Republican presidential and Senate candidates for more than 25 years. “This is an electoral disaster waiting to happen.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 17

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Boston Globe regarding the “social media slap fight” between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren:

During their exchanges, it didn’t matter what Trump thumb-typed in answer to Warren’s taunts: Each time Trump responded was a win for Warren, said Whit Ayres, a Republican political strategist and pollster who worked for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.

“One of the basics of Politics 101 is you fight with the candidates who are your opponents, not those who are not,” Ayres said, in a Globe interview. “There’s no cost to Warren in doing this; the cost is to Trump, when he gets baited into reacting to someone who’s not on the ballot against him.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 16

Whit Ayres’ comments to Fox News Latino regarding Hispanic support for Republicans nationally:

Veteran Republican pollster Whit Ayres said that while Latinos have traditionally preferred the Democratic Party, the Fox News Latino poll highlights a worrisome downward trend for Republicans.

“Party identification [for Latinos] is fully consistent with what we have seen since the demise of the George W. Bush immigration reform proposal in 2007, when Hispanic voter identification went from 49 percent Democrat to 65 percent Democrat,” said Ayres, who wrote a book titled: “2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America,” which says the GOP must get more minorities on its side if it is to remain viable and win back the Oval Office.

“After the 2007 demise of the immigration proposal, Republican Party ID [among Latinos] went from 28 percent, to 26 percent, then 25 percent to 22 percent and in 2014 went to 27 percent. This would mean that Republican ID is at its lowest point” going back more than a decade, Ayres said.

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Whit Ayres, August 15

Whit Ayres’ comments in the New York Times regarding Donald Trump’s struggles with minority voters:

That is what worries Republicans this year, particularly in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania with heavily black cities, where an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll last week showed Mr. Trump receiving only 1 percent of the black vote. (The poll’s three percentage point margin of error among all voters suggests that his support could be slightly higher.)

“As is the case with many other groups, Donald Trump is in a race to the bottom,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who last year wrote a book warning his party to expand its appeal or face doom. “He will likely have to get more than 65 percent of the white vote to win.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, August 1

Jon McHenry’s comments on the prospects for Republicans retaining the Senate majority:

“Democrats haven’t really started the process of tying Trump around Republican necks,” said Jon McHenry, a prominent Republican pollster. “The swing state Republicans who hold their seats this fall will be those with a good story of vision and accomplishment to tell that allows them to run independently of Trump.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 8

Whit Ayres’ comments in US News and World Report on Donald Trump’s effect on downballot races and the future of the Republican party:

For the moment that’s raising the prospect of resurgence in a fading voting pattern: “Just because people haven’t split their tickets in recent elections doesn’t mean they can’t spit their tickets,” says Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster who also wrote a book, “2016 and Beyond” on how the GOP can regain the White House. “We are starting to see hints of the greatest amounts of ticket splitting we have seen since the 1980s.” Ayres pointed to a poll his firm conducted for Rep. Robert Dold, an Illinois Republican in a swing district; it had Clinton leading by 16 points and Dold ahead by 7 percentage points. “So there’s a 23 point difference in those numbers … which is a dramatic level of ticket splitting,” Ayres says.

Nominating Trump only throws accelerant on what had been a smoldering fire for the Republican Party. Because you know who Donald Trump specifically does not appeal to? Women (the gender gap is trending toward record-setting this year), nonwhite voters and young voters.

“That’s a serious danger,” says GOP pollster Ayres. “People tend stick the participation identification they adopted when they came of political age.” If Democrats can lock in voting groups whose power is only going to grow, like Latinos and millenials, “it will be exceedingly difficult for Republicans to put together a majority in future elections.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 7

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Wall Street Journal on the electoral impact of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of classified emails:

Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster, said Mr. Comey’s remarks won’t help Mrs. Clinton convince voters that her competence is beyond reproach. But his comments aren’t likely to be a fatal blow, either, he said.

“In any other election, having the FBI director accuse a presidential candidate of extreme carelessness would effectively kill their campaign, but this is obviously not any other election,” Mr. Ayres said. “It should not be difficult to win that, but Mr. Trump may find it challenging.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 6

Whit Ayres’ comments in the McClatchy newspapers regarding the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information:

Republican consultant Whit Ayres noted that Comey’s phrase “extremely careless” to describe Clinton’s handling of classified information is likely to be used repeatedly in TV and radio spots.

“Today may have closed the legal case on the email scandal, but it’s hardly closed the political case,” he said. “The worst criticism any candidate can receive is one that reinforces pre-existing doubts, and this certainly reinforces the pre-existing doubts about Hillary Clinton’s honesty and trustworthiness. There is a reason she’s not deemed by most Americans to be honest and trustworthy, and it’s the kind of thing that Comey discussed.”

Still, Ayres was not yet certain that the controversy would end up changing Clinton’s standing in the polls or the eyes of the voters.

“The question is whether this is already built into the price of the stock,” he said. “Are doubts about Hillary Clinton’s honesty and trustworthiness already built into the numbers we see in the polls or does this have the potential to move those numbers?”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 4 Washington Times

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Washington Times regarding ticket splitting:

While presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tops Mr. Trump in matchups in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, incumbent Senate Republicans are all ahead in polling in their own races, building significant leads.

“We’re seeing in numerous states and districts at the moment very substantial levels of potential ticket-splitting,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

Mr. Ayres said tickets haven’t been split much in recent elections because down-ballot candidates have tended to align themselves closely with their parties’ presidential nominees. That is not the case this year, and voters are being asked to split their tickets.

“People are perfectly capable of splitting their tickets, and it looks like if the parties follow through with their presumptive nominees, then this year we could have a record level,” Mr. Ayres said.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 4

Whit Ayres’ comments on President Obama’s appeal and Hillary Clinton’s electoral map in The Canadian Press:

He’ll start using some of that political advantage Tuesday. Obama-Clinton and Trump will hold competing rallies in North Carolina. It’s a state Obama won once, though he lost it in 2012 and still won a big majority in the electoral college.

“If Hillary Clinton can win the same states, then she’s the next president,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research, who was the pollster for Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.

He said the advantage of using Obama is that he remains wildly popular among Democrats. Obama inspired African-Americans to vote in record numbers, and won the younger demographic that spurned Clinton in the primary. He could also help with white voters — polling data from YouGov suggests nearly one-quarter of those who supported him haven’t yet backed Clinton.

But Ayres said there are drawbacks too.

He said Obama’s presence risks turning off Trump-skeptical Republicans and independents — the kind of persuadable voters who could support Clinton, but shudder at the idea of a third Obama term.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 25

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Los Angeles Times regarding comparisons between “Brexit” and the Trump campaign:

“The Brexit vote did not have a candidate,” said Whit Ayres, the Republican pollster who served as a strategist to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. “The decision about the presidency involves far more than disagreements over public policy. Character and leadership are going to be paramount in this choice for Americans in November.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, June 16

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill on Republicans focusing on down ballot races this fall:

“I think in the minds of people right now, that is the focus — preserving our majorities in the Senate and the House,” said Dan Judy, a GOP strategist whose firm North Star Opinion Research worked on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) presidential bid. “You’re seeing it among people in Washington, you’re seeing it among many of the major-money people.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 16

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Dayton Daily News on Trump and the Republican party:

“A year ago there was the potential to have a united party behind a popular candidate posting up against a historically unpopular Hillary Clinton,” says veteran Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who worked for Marco Rubio’s failed presidential bid. “Today we have a divided party with the one candidate in America less popular than Hillary Clinton as our presumptive nominee.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, June 14

Whit Ayres’ comments for Bloomberg Politics on Donald Trump, projecting strength, and addressing terrorism:

“Trump’s chance of success depends on the extent to which people are desperate for a change in direction at the highest levels of government, regardless of whether they know what those changes look like so far,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “But that’s what put him in the game so far.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Get Used to It

Whit Ayres’ comments for The Washington Post on Donald Trump’s campaign style and Republican reactions:

“Get used to it,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, a Trump critic. “This is your life for the next five months.”

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Whit Ayres, June 9

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Atlantic regarding Donald Trump’s racially-charged appeals:

“Racially divisive politics ramp up the importance of the changing demographics because it makes it harder to perform credibly among non-white voters, and it also makes it harder for Trump to run up the white numbers he needs because of resistance to that sort of appeal among white college graduates and white women,” said the longtime GOP pollster Whit Ayres.

Whit Ayres, June 3

Whit Ayres’ comments in US News on chief executive officers making the transition to politics:

Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP consultant, lists three weaknesses business-only leaders suffer when they seek political office. They’re arrogant, Ayres says, thinking they know more about polling than pollsters and more about how the media operates than media experts do. They see themselves as the hirers, and not the person asking voters to hire them for an important job (and, as a consequence, they don’t handle scrutiny or criticism well). And they don’t think they need to learn new things, because they can always hire experts to deal with it, much as they might hire an accountant to do the books at the office.

“The famous political scientist Richard Neustadt argued that presidential power is the power to persuade. It’s not the power to order things to be done. It’s the power to persuade people that what you want them to do is in their best interest,” says Ayres, who advised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio when he was running for president. “A lot of people who come from a hierarchical environment, military or business, find it hard to make the transition to be an effective political deal-maker, wherein the premium is on persuasive ability. Bullying people who have their own independent constituencies is not really an effective governing technique,” Ayres says.

Could Trump make the transition from ultimate authority to someone who can navigate Congress, courts, independent agencies and the press? Experts are skeptical. Ayres, for his part, says he was approached by a CEO client who said he wanted to hire the seasoned consultant precisely because he didn’t want to make the same mistakes other businesspeople make when they run for office. “He proceeded to make every single one of them,” Ayres laments. And he lost the race.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May 29

Whit Ayres’ comments in the San Diego Union-Tribune on demographics and the Trump campaign:

“We still elect presidents using the Electoral College … depending on states that are made up of diverse electorates,” cautions GOP pollster Whit Ayres. “There aren’t enough angry white people to create a majority in the new America of 2016, (and) running up your numbers with white males in Mississippi doesn’t get you one more electoral vote than Mitt Romney.”

Ayres, the Republican pollster, affirmed that it’s “not impossible” for Trump to fashion a winning coalition. But, he says, “You’re basically arguing that somehow, a constant 20-year-plus demographic trend is just going to magically stop.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, May the Fourth

Jon McHenry’s comments in Politico on the challenges Donald Trump faces in winning a general election:

“I don’t see how he all of a sudden becomes this magnanimous unifier,” said Republican pollster Jon McHenry, whose firm, North Star Opinion Research, polled for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “Does he get a bump? Probably. But he’s starting from such a low position that this small bump he gets from being the presumptive nominee I don’t think is enough to overcome the demographic challenges or the character challenges that Trump faces.”

McHenry outlined some back-of-the-envelope math, starting with a number of assumptions, to outline Trump’s uphill path. First, he assumed three-in-10 voters this fall are non-white – a modest increase from 28 percent in 2012, according to exit polls. He then gave Trump a vote share of 10 percentage points greater than his average favorable rating for a number of demographic groups.

If Trump’s vote share among white women was 50 percent, McHenry said – which would be down from Romney’s 56 percent four years ago – that would mean Trump would have to win about 85 percent of white men to win, an astounding percentage and dramatically better than Romney’s 62-percent share.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, May the Fourth

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill on the prospects for a Trump win in November:

Republican strategist Dan Judy, whose firm North Star Opinion Research worked with Rubio’s now-defunct campaign, pointed to Trump’s particularly low favorability numbers among nonwhite voters and among women.

“There are not enough white men in the country to offset winning 30 percent of women and 10 percent of nonwhites,” Judy said, adding that even though Trump had surpassed expectations in innumerable ways, winning elections ultimately “becomes a matter of mathematics.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, May the Fourth

Whit Ayres’ comments to ABC News regarding the challenges a Trump candidacy faces in the fall:

Some Republicans acknowledge the steep curve for Trump, who edged closer to clinching the nomination after winning Indiana on Tuesday.

“The guy is hated and detested by an extraordinary amount of the American electorate,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster who worked on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.

“It’s not just one group that detests him,” Ayres said, alluding to Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and his incendiary comments about women. “He has been on a concerted effort to make enemies of millions of Americans.”

To read the full article, please click here.