A prominent Republican pollster sounded warning bells about the shifting demographics of the American electorate at a breakfast with reporters Tuesday morning, saying his party must be more inclusive of minority voters if it wants to win the White House in 2016.
Whit Ayres, founder of the Republican polling firm North Star Opinion Research, said the GOP must win more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, as well as appeal to younger voters, in order to be successful at the presidential level in 2016. To do that, he said the party needs to change its messaging and tone on issues such as immigration and same-sex marriage.
"I think it's safe to say that if your position is you want to deport 11 million Hispanics, that you will find it difficult to persuade Hispanic voters to be in the Republican coalition," Ayres told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.
On same-sex marriage, Ayres added, "We are 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."
Beyond the White House, Ayres said a "transformational" candidate that appeals to these demographic groups could greatly assist many of the vulnerable GOP senators up for re-election in states Democrats often carry in presidential years. Facing a challenging map in its first cycle since taking the majority, Republican incumbent losses in five of those states would ensure a Democrat-controlled Senate .
The most vulnerable include Sens. Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, who are running in states President Barack Obama carried by at least 5 points in 2012.
"The Republican nominee defines the Republican Party," Ayres said. A transformational "Republican nominee at the top of the ticket will make those states far more competitive than they have been up to that point."
Ayres, who was promoting his new book, "2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America," touted Rubio, who will announce whether he's running for president or re-election on April 13, as the kind of nominee who can appeal to the 2016 electorate.
"Marco Rubio is an extraordinarily talented politician," said Ayres, who counts Rubio among his clients.
"Anyone underestimates his ability at their peril," he added.
The pollster has been highlighting the party's issue with Hispanics for years. In the wake of the 2012 elections, Ayres polled four battleground states with high Hispanic populations and found the GOP brand tarnished with that voting demographic.
He was also one of nearly a dozen GOP pollsters who gathered the morning after Eric Cantor's primary defeat last year to explain the positive political ramifications of Republicans supporting an immigration overhaul.
Related: GOP Poll: Republican Brand Tarnished With Hispanics GOP Immigration Push Forced to Reconcile With Cantor Loss The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.