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, 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.

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.

Whit Ayres, October 21

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post on Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the election results:

Republican pollster Whit ­Ayres said that at the Las Vegas debate, Trump “blew his last chance to turn it around.” But, he said, “I am not convinced that the rest of the party will have as bad a night [on Election Day] as Donald Trump is going to have, because the Trump brand is so distinct from the Republican brand.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

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.