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, May 13

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Wall Street Journal about immigration reform and changing demographics in the United States:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster and strategist, says merely attacking illegal immigration—which is viewed by many Hispanics as an attack on their entire community—isn’t enough for a candidate, and that the GOP’s immigration-reform complacency could be costly in 2016 and beyond.

“The demographics in our country are changing so rapidly—with whites declining and nonwhites increasing about three percentage points each presidential election—that it becomes exceedingly difficult to win a majority of the popular vote just by increasing the share of the white vote going to the Republican candidate,” Mr. Ayres told Forbes last month. Trying to gain a larger share of a shrinking proportion of the electorate is a losing strategy, he added. “It makes far more sense—in 2016 and certainly for elections after that—for Republicans to focus on dramatically increasing their share of the nonwhite vote, especially among Hispanics who are the fastest-growing minority group.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, April 18

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Economist on the demographic challenges facing Republicans at the presidential level:

The idea that a Republican could win without becoming more appealing to minority voters was disproved in 2012. Mitt Romney ran up a record score with non-Hispanic white voters, yet still lost. Both Mr Romney and John McCain, the party’s nominee in 2008, would have been president if they had faced the same (largely lily-white) electorate as Ronald Reagan did in 1980, says Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. And Hillary Clinton, the probable Democratic nominee, is unlikely to do as badly with white voters as Mr Obama did.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres on MSNBC

Whit Ayres was featured on Morning Joe to discuss his book 2016 and Beyond:

Whit Ayres, March 31

Whit Ayres spoke about client Marco Rubio at The Monitor Breakfast this morning:

“Marco Rubio is the Michael Jordan of American politics,” Ayres said on Tuesday, comparing the 43-year-old Florida senator to the basketball prodigy’s celebrated run in the 1980s at the University of North Carolina. “Anyone underestimates his ability at their peril….He’s substantive, he’s talented and I am very confident that once the voters get the chance to see the kind of candidate he is and the kind of vision he paints for the country that they will place him in the top tier.”

To read the full article on The Washington Post’s website, please click here.

Photo credit: Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor.

Whit Ayres, Christian Science Monitor Breakfast

Whit Ayres spoke at today’s Christian Science Monitor Sperling breakfast:

While a majority of Americans support gay marriage, nearly three-quarters of Republicans do not, according to Gallup. That’s not true for young Republicans, however. More than 60 percent of Republican voters under 30 do support gay marriage, said Ayers, the founder and president of North Star Opinion Research.

“We’re headed to the point where a political candidate who is perceived as anti-gay at the presidential level will never connect with people under 30 years old,” Ayers said, citing the rapidly changing views on same-sex marriage in America.

That said, gay rights is at the bottom of the list of issues for Republican voters, competing with climate change, he pointed out.

To read the full article, please click here.

Photo Credit: Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor.

Whit Ayres, March 30

Whit Ayres was cited in the New York Times regarding the 2016 presidential contest and the need to appeal to Hispanic voters:

Mr. Bush’s calculus is based in part on the 2012 election: Mitt Romney received 17 percent of the nonwhite vote, meaning that if the next Republican nominee does no better, he or she will have to receive 65 percent of the white vote to win, said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.

More significant, their approaches to the primary campaign could also be instructive about how each would attempt to win a general election, and the risks they choose to take.

“One is a populist strategy that doubles down on turning out disaffected white men,” Mr. Lewis said. (An adviser to Mr. Walker did not directly dispute this assessment, suggesting that Mr. Walker would perform well with middle-class voters, whose support for Democratic candidates has dwindled in the last few presidential campaigns and who have strongly supported Mr. Walker in his gubernatorial races.)

“The other is a gamble that conservatism can win in the free market of ideas amongst a diverse and changing 21st-century America,” Mr. Lewis said of Mr. Bush’s approach.

Of course, Republicans may not be strictly bound to an either-or proposition.

Winning back the Great Lakes states could prove as decisive as reclaiming the increasingly diverse states that Mr. Bush is focused on, said Mr. Ayres, the pollster. He said that was an argument for a hybrid candidate who could do both — like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whom Mr. Ayres expects to work for if he runs for president.

Republicans may ultimately choose such a third way. But if it comes down to Mr. Bush and Mr. Walker, the choice will prove revealing.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, March 26

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill on the importance of likability in the presidential contest:

“Part of [Ted Cruz’] problem is not being likable to voters, but another part of it is not being likable enough to the people [within the party establishment] whose help you need to get a campaign off the ground,” said GOP consultant Dan Judy. “He is not well-liked by those people. A lot of those people like some Democratic senators more than they like him.”

Judy also pointed out, however, that the absence of natural charm is not necessarily fatal for a politician, and it’s not just a GOP issue.

Clinton, after all, has long struggled in this area, famously being dismissed with a “You’re likable enough, Hillary” comment by then-Sen. Barack Obama during their tumultuous 2008 primary campaign.

Despite that, Clinton is a clearer favorite to become her party’s standard-bearer this time around.

“Connecting with people has never been her strong suit,” Judy said. “You can get better — you can learn to plaster on a smile when you are shaking people’s hands. But, really, it’s something that you either have or you don’t.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 26

Whit Ayres’ comment in The Washington Post regarding the Republican presidential nomination contest and factions:

Whit Ayres, a pollster who advises Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), has a rule about his party’s nomination contests: “No one faction is large enough to nominate its favorite candidate,” he says. “Whoever is nominated will be rooted in one of the factions but will be acceptable to a number of the factions.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 24

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Atlanta Journal-Constititution regarding opinion on “income inequality”:

Veteran Republican pollster Whit Ayres has tested extensively whether Americans respond more to cries to do something about income inequality or to increase middle class opportunity. The latter is a key part of the platform of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose nascent presidential campaign Ayres is advising.

“Defining the problem as the difference between the rich and the poor is fundamentally not resonating with the vast majority of Americans — that is a more European definition,” Ayres said. “Most Americans don’t believe inequality is the problem. They want to make sure there are avenues of success for their children.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, Forbes Magazine

Whit Ayres was interviewed by Forbes to discuss his new book 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America:

In a new book, 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America, veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres argues that given demographic trends, Republicans need to attract more minority voters or face Democrats winning the White House in 2016 and on into the foreseeable future. Ayres is founder and president of North Star Opinion Researchand has consulted for high level Republican candidates and conservative organizations.

To read the interview, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 12

Whit Ayres’ recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, “A Daunting Demographic Challenge for the GOP in 2016,” was quoted in the Dallas Morning News:

At the same time, Hillary Clinton seems likely to benefit from the country’s continuing demographic diversification, which prominent Republican analyst Whit Ayres said recently poses a big barrier toward a GOP victory in 2016.

In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney “won every significant white group…often by overwhelming margins,” only to lose the election by 5 million votes because Barack Obama “achieved breathtaking majorities among every other racial group,” Ayres wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

“Unfortunately, for Republicans,” he added, “the math is only going to get worse,” as the proportion of white voters continues declining. Republicans can’t win “unless they nominate a transformational candidate who can dramatically broaden the GOP’s appeal,” he wrote. Calling Clinton “a more attractive candidate than Obama among whites in culturally conservative regions,” he said the former secretary of state could even win with less of the nonwhite vote than John Kerry polled in 2004.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, March 6

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill regarding Hillary Clinton’s early campaign missteps:

“The question of her political competence is definitely on display,” said Dan Judy of Republican firm North Star Opinion Research … “The thing is, when people talk about the Clintons’ political talent, you think of Bill. She is not Bill. She has been very successful in politics but she is not a very talented politician — and I think that was on display in the 2008 primary, and it has been on display again since the time she left as secretary of State.”

“She’s not a natural. She has the policy expertise but not the political skills,” said Judy. “She’s just not all that great.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 5

Jennifer Rubin interviewed Whit Ayres about his new book, 2016 and Beyond:

Whit Ayres, president of North Star Opinion Research, is among the most respected pollsters in GOP circles. (As a caveat, his firm has two GOP 2016 hopefuls as clients, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina  and Marco Rubio of Florida.) His new book, “2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America,” makes the simple case that a conservative message based on individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and support for families is not and cannot be directed only to white voters. “These values know no ethnic boundaries,” he says in a telephone interview. Republicans cannot win at the national level without recognizing the increasingly diverse electorate. “We need to adopt an inclusive message and an inclusive tone,” he says.

To read the full column, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 2

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Washington Post regarding the Republican coalition and winning the presidency in 2016:

Winning the White House, Republicans say, is next to impossible without Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.

“You can do it without Virginia, but it makes the task substantially more difficult,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. Ayres predicted that intraparty feuding would dissipate with the emergence of a GOP nominee.

“No candidate from a particular faction of the Republican Party is going to win the nomination — no one faction is large enough,” he said. “Consequently, despite animosity and disagreements, each faction needs the other to be successful.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 29

Whit Ayres’ comments in Politico regarding Republican candidates’ views of Hillary Clinton:

“The other issue is more personal,” said the Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “There is a widespread feeling among both Democratic and Republican operatives that she is a very capable candidate, but she does not share the political skills of her husband. It is no severe criticism to say she doesn’t equal his political skills, because very few people do. But the fact is, she doesn’t.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 28

Whit Ayres’s quote for the National Journal “Against the Grain” column, on the anxieties of the middle class:

“We’re going to have to see sustained growth in the number of middle-class jobs and an increase in median income before we really see attitudes about the economy turn around,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who is advising potential presidential candidate Marco Rubio. “Debates on how to get the economy going to get more well-paying middle-class jobs will remain one of the very top issues in the next presidential campaign. The depth of middle-class anxiety is so widespread.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 27

Whit Ayres’ comments to Bloomberg Politics on Senator Marco Rubio:

“People make an enormous mistake if they underestimate the potential of an elected official as enormously talented as Marco Rubio,” said Whit Ayres, Rubio’s Washington-based pollster. “He is an incredible political talent and talent will rise in the long run in this, and any other profession.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 26

Whit Ayres on public opinion regarding gay marriage, via ABC News:

“On no issue during my 40-year career have opinions moved as rapidly as they have on the issue of the morality of gay relationships and ultimately gay marriage,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the National Rifle Association. “When you have conservative organizations like the U.S. military and the Boy Scouts openly accepting gay members, the debate is close to being over.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, January 14

Whit Ayres in The Telegraph on the early stages of the 2016 presidential contest:

“Polling at this stage is simply a measure of name recognition and tells you nothing of how a likely contest would turn out,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “Sometimes people read into polls the things they want to see rather than looking beneath the surface to realise the limitations of what polls can tell you.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 24

Whit Ayres’ comments in the National Journal on how President Obama’s actions may affect Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 presidential contest:

Even so, a pattern is already hardening with Clinton embracing and the 2016 Republicans repudiating many of Obama’s most consequential, and polarizing, initiatives. Republicans believe this dynamic will benefit them because, as Obama himself acknowledged with his “new car smell” remarks this week, voters usually prefer change after a two-term president. “It makes it far more difficult for Hillary Clinton to separate herself from Barack Obama and avoid the charge that she’s going to represent [his] third term,” says Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

To read the full article, please click here.

Governor Halsam Candidacy for RGA Chair

Whit Ayres’ comments in Politico on Governor Bill Haslam’s candidacy for chairman of the RGA:

Whit Ayres, the national GOP pollster who advises Haslam, said the governor would be an “inspired” choice for the RGA, allowing that he’d represent a significant stylistic shift from his more pugilistic predecessors.

“He is the most modest major political figure I’ve ever worked with in my life,” Ayres said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a governor anywhere in the country who is more popular than Bill Haslam. I mean, who has job approval ratings in the 70s these days, in this cynical age?”

To read the full article about Governor Haslam, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 17

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Wall Street Journal regarding Governor Chris Christie and the Keystone XL pipeline:

Any successful 2016 Republican candidate for president will need to show their support for the pipeline, said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. Pushing other ideas to expand U.S. energy investments could help to distinguish Mr. Christie from the rest of the pack, he said. “It’s a great issue for Republicans. It’s a great issue for anyone who wants to see economic growth.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 13

Whit Ayres’ quoted by msnbc on potential executive action on immigration:

“[Executive action] undercuts supporters of immigration reform and emboldens the opponents,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who has advocated passing reform to help the GOP win back Latinos, told msnbc. “It’s going to come across as an illegitimate and crassly political move by a desperate president.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 4

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Wall Street Journal on the final weeks of the election:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, said the late-in-the-game focus on Ebola and Islamic State added to a growing body of evidence that “the administration is in over its head.”

While these issues didn’t decide the election, they sucked up a lot of oxygen, making it difficult for Democrats to find traction talking about other topics, he said.

“When people are dying in a pandemic in Africa and innocent people are getting their heads chopped off in the Middle East, raising the minimum wage pales in comparison,” Mr. Ayres said, referring to a central policy proposal from Democratic candidates.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, November 1

Whit Ayres shared his thoughts on the likelihood of Republicans gaining control of the Senate on the Journal Editorial Report:

Whit Ayres, October 30

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Hartford Courant on gubernatorial candidates running against the partisan tide:

Whit Ayres, a Republican political consultant and pollster based in Washington, D.C., said, “Republicans in blue states need to have a center-right rudder to guide their decision-making, but they cannot be overtly ideological or overtly partisan.

“Doing so is the kiss of death for a candidate running from a minority party in any state,” Ayres said, saying that candidates should instead focus their vision “on essentially bipartisan issues like education, getting the economy going, enhancing the health care system.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, October 17

Jon McHenry’s comments on the political effect of President Obama’s Ebola response in the Washington Times:

“It’s pretty clear that the best politics is to do a travel ban,” said Jon McHenry, vice president of North Star Opinion Research in Alexandria, Virginia. “In that sense, the president, regardless of what’s going on behind scenes, seems to be detached and inactive on another situation that people care about. This is yet another case that seems to show a lack of leadership on his part.”

The Ebola infections and the CDC’s missteps are keeping the news story alive and making it difficult for Democratic candidates to talk about topics other than the administration’s apparent incompetence, Mr. McHenry said.

“It’s another issue on which Democrats are having to defend the president or turn around and attack the country’s response on this,” he said. “At a time when they want to be talking about almost anything else, they’re talking about the administration again.”

He added, “It reinforces a pattern of what people believe that they’re seeing — a lack of leadership, a lack of engagement. Whether it’s being slow to react in Ukraine, slow to react in Syria with [the Islamic State], he charitably has a very deliberate approach but, being less charitable, seems to not put the sense of urgency on issues that voters want him to have.”

How the crisis plays out politically might well depend on whether any more cases of Ebola surface in the U.S., Mr. McHenry said.

“If someone in Ohio winds up getting this, then it’s going to look like a pandemic to the public,” he said. “I’m sure more people are going to die from the flu this year [in the U.S.] than from Ebola, but the news media has a fresh story to run with every day, there’s a new facet to it every day.”

For the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres on NPR, October 3

Whit Ayres’ comments on our joint Resurgent Republic/Democracy Corps poll for NPR:

The poll concentrated on the Senate battleground — the 12 states that will determine control of the Senate next year. It found an electorate where nobody likes anybody. The president, the Republicans and the Democrats were viewed with equal disgust — their favorability ratings all in the low 40s. This is a disgruntled group of voters, says Ayres, which this year happens to be good news for his party.

“The direction of the country is overwhelmingly perceived to be in the wrong direction. Barack Obama is exceedingly unpopular in the Senate battlegrounds,” he says. “The generic party preference for a Senate candidate favors the Republicans by three points. So the playing field still tilts strongly to Republicans in these 12 battleground states.”

To read the full article, please click here.

To hear the audio, please click below:

Whit Ayres, October 3

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Boston Globe on ObamaCare as an issue in this year’s elections:

Not so fast, retorts GOP pollster Whit Ayres: The ACA is still a hot issue where it really matters this year, which is in the dozen states with tight Senate races.

“The health care law is one of the top issues for Republicans and independents, and trust me, they are not in support,” says Ayres, who with Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg has just completed a survey for National Public Radio of those states. Among all voters in those states, the economy, at 55 percent, is the biggest issue driving voters, with the ACA next, at 36 percent, followed by foreign policy and the Islamic State, at 33 percent, he says.

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, September 5

Jon McHenry’s comments in Huffington Post about polling the Kansas Senate race:

-Jon McHenry (R), North Star Opinion Research: “I would ask a three-way ballot first: ‘If the election for U.S. Senate were being held today and the candidates were (ROTATE: Pat Roberts, the Republican, Chad Taylor, the Democrat, and Greg Orman, an Independent) for which candidate would you vote?’ Then I would ask: ‘If the election for U.S. Senate were being held today and the candidates were just (ROTATE: Pat Roberts, the Republican, and Greg Orman, an Independent), for which candidate would you vote?’ I think you have to take into account that Taylor will be on the ballot, but you also want to see where the ballot might be heading. Anyone polling the race is going to want to track the change on the three-way to see if Taylor drops to nothing as we get into October.

To read the full article, please click here.