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, Irish Times, July 22

Whit Ayres’s comments in The Irish Times on GOP prospects with a changing American electorate:

“Virtually every Republican believes that demographic trends will require a successful Republican presidential candidate to do much better among nonwhite voters in the future,” says Whit Ayres, author of 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans can Elect a President in the New America, and a Republican strategist who backed the Florida senator Marco Rubio in the primary elections.
“But there is a segment of the party that thinks Republicans might squeeze out one more presidential victory in 2016 by winning a larger share of the shrinking pool of white voters. The November election will test that proposition.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 22

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Wall Street Journal on Ted Cruz’s speech at the Republican convention:

For Mr. Cruz, a first-term senator already planning a future presidential run, the question is whether he has positioned himself to be the leader of a post-Trump GOP or so angered Republicans that he foreclosed on success in a future national campaign.

“There’s no one who will forget last night in the Republican Party,” said Whit Ayers, a polling expert who has worked in Republican politics for three decades. “That will be seared into the collective memories of Republican primary voters.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 20

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Tampa Bay Times on the country’s changing demographics and Republican electoral prospects:

“Republicans can’t win a presidential election by trying to grab a larger piece of a shrinking pie,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres warned in his 2015 book, 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America. “If America’s demographics still looked the way they did in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was voted into office, John McCain and Mitt Romney would have won the White House. These demographic trends show no sign of abating. Whites accounted for 72% of the national electorate in 2012, down from 83% in 1992 and 88% in 1976.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, July 18

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill on the unpredictable nature of a Trump-led convention:

Dan Judy, a GOP strategist who worked on the campaign of one of Trump’s most serious primary rivals, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), said that he was “concerned” about the convention’s organization.

“The [Republican] Party professionals who are working on it are going to do a fantastic job,” Judy said. “But any problems will come from the candidate, who has proved himself to be undisciplined and freewheeling. … What you worry about with Trump is that every time he comes out, you have the equivalent of Clint Eastwood talking to a chair.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, July 18

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times on Senators running for reelection in the days of Trump:

“Localize, localize, localize,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, offering the mantra of endangered Senate incumbents on the ballot with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s divisiveness could bring back ticket splitting, Republican strategists said. “We’re starting to see hints of the largest amounts of split-ticket voting since the 1980s,” Mr. Ayres said.

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.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/trump-gop-demographics/486320/

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.

Whit Ayres, April 29

Whit Ayres’ comments in the San Antonio Express-News regarding the vice presidential selection process:

For Trump, the selection process is complicated by not knowing when he might be able to claim the nomination.

“If we know as of the evening of June 7 (when the primary season effectively ends), then it will be a more normal process for him. But if we don’t know until the convention, it will be anything but normal,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP consultant who advised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign for the Republican nomination.

Trump has the added challenge of finding a running mate in a Republican Party that he routinely disparages. The No. 2 on the ticket is expected to defend policies and statements of the nominee, which could prove challenging under Trump.

Losing vice presidential candidates aren’t typically tarnished by defeat. But, Ayres observed, “Trump is a totally different kind of candidate who could have effects on a vice presidential nominee different from anyone else we’ve seen.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, April 27

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 4.12.00 PM
Whit Ayres’ comments in the Kansas City Star on the impact of Indiana’s primary on the Republican nominating process:

“If Donald Trump wins Indiana, there will be very little energy or hope left among those who want to back a nominee other than Donald Trump,” said Republican consultant Whit Ayres.

To read the full article, please click here.

Dan Judy, April 25

Dan Judy’s comments in The Hill on the alliance between Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich:

“It remains to be seen how effective this is going to be,” said GOP strategist Dan Judy. “Can the average Kasich supporter stomach voting for Cruz? Can the average Cruz supporter stomach voting for Kasich? We just don’t know.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, April 21

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post on the challenges Donald J. Trump would face in a general election:

“One thing you learn very quickly in political consulting is the fruitlessness of trying to get a candidate to change who he or she fundamentally is at their core,” said Republican strategist Whit Ayres, who did polling for Rubio’s presidential campaign before he dropped out of the race. “So is the snide, insulting, misogynistic guy we’ve seen really who Donald Trump is? Or is it the disciplined, respectful, unifying Trump we saw for seven minutes after the New York primary?

“None of us can give ourselves a personality transplant,” Ayres added.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, April 20

Whit Ayres’ comments in The Washington Post regarding Hillary Clinton’s image:

Republicans believe that Clinton is so well known that she will have difficulty changing minds. “She is substantially weaker as a candidate than I expected and substantially less able to create a compelling persona on the stump,” said Whit Ayres, who was Rubio’s campaign pollster.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, April 11

Whit Ayres’ comments in Salon regarding Donald Trump and political correctness:

“At its best, not being politically correct comes across as direct, unfiltered and honest. At its worst, not being politically correct comes across as crude, rude and insulting,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who previously worked for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. Trump’s supporters “may find it refreshing. That doesn’t mean they would find it presidential.”

Ayres and other analysts say Trump’s rejection of political correctness appeals to voters frustrated by the setbacks of the Great Recession and the global economy; immigration that has made the country more heterogeneous; and cultural trends such as gay marriage and measures to fight discrimination against African-Americans, which make them feel marginalized.

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, April 11

Jon McHenry’s comment in the Washington Times regarding President Obama’s approval rating and the Supreme Court vacancy:

Republican pollster Jon McHenry of North Star Opinion Research said he doubts the Supreme Court nomination is a factor in Mr. Obama’s improved position.

“I suspect it’s just [Mr. Obama] being out of the spotlight and others on both sides being the partisan fighters,” Mr. McHenry said. “Independents are the least likely to care about the Supreme Court (with Republicans caring most and Democrats in the middle), so I’m skeptical this nomination helps drive his numbers.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, April 1

Whit Ayres’ comments in the Los Angeles Times regarding the Republican nominating contest:

“Any candidate that looks like an almost sure loser in a general election is going to have a hard time getting a party’s nomination,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who was a top strategist for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s unsuccessful bid. “The weaker Trump looks as a potential nominee, the greater the pressure to open up the nominating process for someone who might actually win the general election.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, March 31, NPR

Whit Ayres’ book 2016 and Beyond was featured by NPR regarding Donald Trump’s comments on abortion:

Knowing this, Republican strategists know that the party has to be thoughtful when talking about abortion. In his 2015 book, 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America, GOP strategist Whit Ayres — who advised Marco Rubio’s campaign — told Republicans to exercise “extreme care” in talking about abortion.

“If your audience contains women, chances are very good that you are talking to someone who is extraordinarily sensitive about the topic,” he wrote. He pointed to statistics showing that “three out of five Americans know someone who has had an abortion.”

To read the full article, please click here.