Whit Ayres, December 12

Whit Ayres’ comments to The Atlantic regarding the primary challenges of Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley:

As the veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres told me, DeSantis “has tried to appeal to some of the ‘always Trump’ voters, but the ‘always Trump’ voters are always Trump for a reason. Nikki Haley seems to have figured out the job is to consolidate the ‘maybe Trump’ voters who supported Trump twice but now … want a different style and different temperament.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, December 6

Jon McHenry spoke with NPR regarding the stakes of the fourth Republican presidential primary debate:

Republican pollster Jon McHenry of North Star Opinion Research believes there’s still a narrow opening for an alternative, “as much as Donald Trump is trying to force it closed and lock it.”

But, debate performance is crucial at this stage.

“Because there’s only four, and they all get more airtime, it puts a premium on actually being knowledgeable about these issues,” McHenry explained.

Ahead of the debate, McHenry said he saw it as a make-or-break moment, particularly for DeSantis, who’d once been seen as the most likely Republican hopeful to take on Trump. But McHenry points to a recent shakeup at a pro-DeSantis super PAC, and the fact that Haley seems to have stepped into that role based on polling and support from donors like the Koch network.

To read the full article, please click here, or click here to listen to the December 5 radio story.

Whit Ayres, November 14

Whit Ayres’ in CNN regarding Governor Nikki Haley and the Republican presidential primary:

“I think Haley is clearly the second-place candidate right now,” said veteran Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

Ayres has famously divided the GOP electorate into three camps: an always Trump group immovably bound to him; a never Trump group implacably hostile to him; and a maybe Trump group that supported him but is wearying of the chaos that surrounds him and is open to an alternative. DeSantis, Ayres argued, has “has tried to appeal to some of the ‘always Trump’ voters, but the ‘always Trump’ voters are always Trump for a reason. Nikki Haley seems to have figured out the job is to consolidate the ‘maybe Trump’ voters who supported Trump twice but now … want a different style and different temperament.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, November 8

Jon McHenry spoke with NPR news about Governor Nikki Haley’s path to the Republican nomination:

Republican pollster Jon McHenry with North Star Opinion Research says if Haley can make a very strong showing in the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and her home state of South Carolina, she could still have at least a theoretical – albeit narrow – path to the nomination.

“It’s not overly likely,” McHenry cautioned, “given the sort of the cult like following [Trump] seems to have among some primary voters.” 

“But I do think Gov. Haley has probably the best shot of the rest of the field,” he added. 

McHenry says Haley would need to continue standing out in the debates, and hope that more of her rivals drop out, like former Vice President Mike Pence did recently.

To read the full story or listen to the audio, please click here.

Whit Ayres, October 29

Whit Ayres’ comments in Politico on Governor Nikki Haley’s standing in the Republican presidential nominating contest:

“It’s coming at a great time for her,” said Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster. “Sometimes the direction of movement is as important as the absolute level of standing — and she’s going up, while the other candidates are either going down or remaining flat.”

Despite Trump still leading the rest of the field by as many as 50 points nationally and 30 points in the early states, Haley is now the main reason DeSantis can no longer declare the primary a “two-man race.” She has closed in on DeSantis, surpassing him in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and is slowly gaining on him in Iowa, despite the Florida governor barnstorming the state throughout the summer and investing significantly more there than Haley.

Since the first debate, Haley has caught fire with New Hampshire voters, rocketing from 3 percent in August to as high as 19 percent recently and solidly in second place.

“The rise is real,” Ayres said. “It reflects her debate performance in the first two debates, but also her performance on the stump.”

To read the whole story, please click here.

Jon McHenry, October 19

Jon McHenry’s comments to Politico regarding Governor Ron DeSantis’ governing and campaigning style:

“Gov. DeSantis seems to be better at running for president when he’s governing rather than campaigning,” said Jon McHenry, a GOP pollster [from] New Hampshire whose firm North Star Opinion Research Group worked on DeSantis’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign. “He drives the conversation more effectively when he’s governing, and actually doing something, rather than sort of talking about what ideological perspective he might be coming from.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Jon McHenry, October 14

Jon McHenry’s comments to NPR regarding the importance of the New Hampshire presidential primary:

“New Hampshire is a reminder that we don’t do this nomination process nationally, that the undeclared voters, the Republican voters in New Hampshire have a chance to say, we’re going to take a look at all these other candidates,” said Jon McHenry, a national GOP pollster from New Hampshire. 

“So we’re going to sort of put them through their paces and see which one we really want to be the standard bearer for our party rather than just Donald Trump holding a few rallies and rolling to a nomination again,” McHenry added.

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres’ Conversation with Bill Kristol

Whit Ayres joined Bill Kristol for a conversation about the State of the Republican party nomination:

“They’re not going to settle for second-best Trump.”

Whit Ayres’ comments in The New York Times regarding Governor Ron DeSantis’ campaign strategy:

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, argued in an email that DeSantis has adopted an approach to the nomination fight that was bound to fail:

“DeSantis’s strategy, and that of any candidate not named Trump, should be to consolidate the Maybe Trump voters. But DeSantis has seemed like he was going after the Always Trump voters with his aggressive language (“slitting throats”), his comment that Ukraine was just a “territorial dispute,” his suggestion that vaccine conspiracy theorist RFK Jr. would be a good candidate to head the Centers for Disease Control, and his doubling down on whether slavery might have been beneficial to some enslaved people.”

The problem with this approach, Ayres continued, is that “the Always Trump voters are ‘Always Trump’ for a reason — they are not going to settle for the second-best Trump if they can get the real thing.”

To read the full article, please click here.

Whit Ayres, August 18

Whit Ayres’ comments to the Associated Press regarding the Republican primary electorate:

Whit Ayres, a national pollster based in Virginia, handicapped the GOP electorate as 10% to 15% “Never Trumpers” — those who might gravitate to Christie for his attacks on Trump — and 35% or so “die-hard MAGA Trump supporters,” referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

The rest, half or a slim majority of the party, “have doubts about his electability” in a general election but are still “reliable Republicans who voted for him twice,” Ayres said. Trump’s rivals cannot win over that remaining faction by “going after him frontally,” the pollster argued.

As a Republican, “you can’t call him unfit for office,” Ayres said. “That’s basically requiring half the party to admit they screwed up and put someone unfit for office into the Oval Office. That’s just a psychological step too far for most people.”

To read the full article on the PBS website, please click here.