Whit Ayres, February 11

Whit Ayres’ comments to The Times of London regarding Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s liabilities:

“I guess his staff are too scared,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster and president of North Star Opinion Research. “He can’t get through an interview without creating more problems for himself.”

“Most people can’t quite believe that [Biden] is even thinking about running again, and they certainly don’t like the idea that he’s one of their only two choices to be president of the United States,” said Ayres. “The other one is facing 91 felony counts. It’s like the vast majority of Americans are going, wait a minute, in a country of 330 million people, are these choices the best we can do?”

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Whit Ayres, February 2

Whit Ayres joined Bill Kristol on his podcast Conversations, saying this about the prospects of another Biden-Trump race:

Trump would win in a landslide in the electoral college if the election were held today and the reason is that Joe Biden is the weakest American president since Jimmy Carter, and there’s some similarity between the two men.

To listen to the podcast, please click here.

Jon McHenry, January 25

Jon McHenry’s comments to The Boston Globe regarding Donald Trump’s performance in the New Hampshire Republican primary:

Trump remains dominant among Republican voters in New Hampshire, but “his performance among independents is a warning sign,” said Jon McHenry, a national GOP pollster who grew up in the state.

“Based on what you saw last night, it seems like he would not be well positioned to win New Hampshire” in the general election, McHenry added.

“Probably the most unifying thing among Republicans is a view that Joe Biden is ruining the country,” said McHenry, the strategist, “so those Republicans certainly vote for Trump.”

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Jon McHenry, January 24

Jon McHenry’s comments to The Daily Caller regarding the New Hampshire exit polls:

“Going forward, Haley will need to do far better among Republicans while also holding serve among independents in the states where they can participate,” Jon McHenry, a GOP polling analyst and vice president at North Star Opinion Research, told the DCNF. “That probably means challenging former President Trump more directly on issues: Ukraine, China, maybe even entitlement reform and job creation.”

“I do think it is worth watching non-white participation in the primaries going forward,” said McHenry. “If participation is more diverse, that may say something about the eventual nominee’s ability to take votes that have traditionally gone to Democrats.”

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Whit Ayres, January 22

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Associated Press regarding former governor Nikki Haley’s campaign:

Haley quickly rose to a leadership post but collided with colleagues over her push for more recorded votes instead of voice votes that spared lawmakers scrutiny. So she soon aimed for the executive branch. She joined a 2010 gubernatorial primary that included the lieutenant governor, attorney general and a sitting congressman. Haley nearly won the nomination outright, with 48.9% of the primary vote. Haley defeated U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett in a runoff 65% to 35%.

Whit Ayres, a national pollster who worked for Barrett, said the campaign previewed Haley’s ability to cast a wide net. “Those margins tell you something about her political skills,” he said.

Ayres said Haley’s approach is pragmatic, like much of her career. About half the party’s voters, Ayres said, voted for Trump twice and would again – but are open to someone else.

“Following Chris Christie’s lead would cap her at the small percentage of ‘Never Trumpers,’” Ayres added, referring to the former New Jersey governor who hammered Trump before dropping out of the race.

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Jon McHenry, January 19

Jon McHenry’s comments to NPR on undeclared voters and the New Hampshire presidential primary:

Still, what makes New Hampshire so harder to predict – and to poll – is that no one knows what its large portion of undeclared voters are going to do, said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster with North Star Opinion Research.

“They could be absolutely disgusted with their choices by Tuesday and say it doesn’t matter who they pick,” said McHenry, who grew up in New Hampshire. “Or they could say, ‘I’ve absolutely had it with Donald Trump and I’m going to, you know, to walk through a blizzard in my bare feet to get to the polls and vote that day.’ “

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Jon McHenry, January 20

Jon McHenry’s comments to Real Clear Politics on the current state of the DeSantis campaign:

“It’s tough to see a path forward,” admitted Jon McHenry, a vice president at North Star Opinion Research Group, whose firm worked on the governor’s 2018 Florida campaign.

“His path is almost to hope for Nikki Haley to lose badly in New Hampshire and then be the alternative to Donald Trump in South Carolina,” he added before pointing to New Hampshire, “while you’re also taking yourself off the table for the most visible contest.”

The current strategy, McHenry said, “tells a lot of donors, we’re just bailing water out of the ship at this point in trying to get the shore.”

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Whit Ayres, January 14

Whit Ayres’ comments on the Republican presidential primary in The Washington Post:

But unlike former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, whose frontal attacks on Trump endeared him to many Democrats and the relatively small constituency of anti-Trumpers in the party, Haley knew she couldn’t ask Republicans who had voted for Trump twice to admit they were wrong. “She has managed to walk a fine line,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres told me. “She avoided the Chris Christie message that Trump is unfit for office while at the same time making a case that it’s time to move on.”

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Jon McHenry, January 4

Jon McHenry’s comments to The Boston Globe regarding conservatives and higher education:

However, pollster and political analyst Jon McHenry said conservative leaders are simply fulfilling their responsibility to amplify the voices of the people they represent. He said he believes many of the critiques from the right reflect the concerns of conservative students and alumni “who feel aggrieved that they’re not getting the same opportunity to share their perspective as liberal students.”

“Some of it’s the culture war and looking to restore America to what it was in the ‘80s,” he said. “Some of it is just an actual desire to see people treated equally, where we’re not going to use race as the determining factor in whether someone gets admitted to a school, [or] whether they get a job.”

The pressure from conservatives is not new.

McHenry traced the origin of conservative political focus on higher education to Ronald Reagan’s 1966 gubernatorial campaign, when he promised to “clean up the mess at Berkeley,” in reference to ongoing campus protests for civil rights and other social causes at the California university. Reagan pointed to university staff as responsible for what he called “a leadership gap and a morality and decency gap” — language that strongly mirrors many of the conservative critiques of universities since 2020.

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Jon McHenry, January 3

Jon McHenry’s comments in The Daily Caller regarding the 2024 U.S. Senate outlook for Republicans:

Jon McHenry, a GOP polling analyst and vice president at North Star Opinion Research, warned that while Republicans “have a very favorable map,” their “candidates matter.”

“Republicans threw away winnable races in the last few years with candidates who were less appealing in the general election than they were with a populist base,” McHenry told the DCNF.

The Cook Political Report recently switched Tester’s seat from “Lean D” to “Toss Up,” joining other Senate races in Ohio and Arizona.

“This is the cycle where they finally beat Jon Tester,” said McHenry. “His repeated votes with Joe Biden will undo him this time around, especially if Biden is the Democratic nominee.”

Tester votes with Biden 91% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s estimate.

To read the full article, including assessments of additional races, please click here.