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On Last Big Primary Day, Presumptive Candidates Pivot To General Election


Six states are voting today in the presidential primary. They are Montana, New Mexico, the Dakotas, New Jersey and, the biggest of all, California. Some of NPR's finest are with us to talk about the Democrats still campaigning. Political editor Domenico Montanaro is here in the studio with me. NPR's Tamara Keith is out at NPR West in California. She's covering the Clinton campaign. And NPR's Sam Sanders is on the line as he follows Bernie Sanders, who is shaking hands in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Hello all three of you.




SHAPIRO: Domenico, let's start with you. Polls have closed in New Jersey. What do we know at this point?

MONTANARO: Well, we know at least on the Republican side that Donald Trump has been declared the winner in New Jersey...

SHAPIRO: Not a surprise.

MONTANARO: ...Which is not a surprise. And that's about it at this point. I mean, we're seeing votes start to trickle in, and we know that there's a lot at stake, though, tonight, obviously.

SHAPIRO: Why is a lot at stake given that last night the Associate Press called the Democratic race for Hillary Clinton?

MONTANARO: Well, I think still watching the vote in California is very important for how this race ends because even though Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee - she's the presumptive Democratic nominee now that we can say that - there is - she needs to be able to close out the case and say that she won in California, put a bookend on it. She doesn't want to go out with a loss and give the wind at the back of Bernie Sanders or his supporters to be able to go into the convention and feel like they need to, you know, get - extract as much as they possibly can.

SHAPIRO: Let's turn to Tamara Keith, who is out there in California covering the Clinton campaign. And Tam, Hillary Clinton is really marking this milestone of the Associated Press having declared her the presumptive nominee. Tell me about how she's doing that.

KEITH: Well, and by the end of tonight, she also expects to have the majority of pledged delegates, the majority of popular vote. They really believe that she will be the nominee - the presumptive nominee. The - it won't be a debate by the end of the night. And she is going to mark this moment in history, place herself in this - in the historical context of other women in history.

And there's a video that the campaign has distributed that they will be playing right before she comes on stage to lay the groundwork for that. It starts with her speech in China and ends - the clip that we're about play ends with Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas. Here's the clip.


HILLARY CLINTON: Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights once and for all.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: That match has been lit, and my fire burns right, but I can't do this alone. When we're together...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Unintelligible) Step back.

CLINTON: This is what democracy looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: And women need to be represented.

ANN RICHARDS: Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.

KEITH: Some famous quotes in there.

SHAPIRO: Absolutely emphasizing the historic nature of, as you say, the first female presumptive nominee of a major party for president.

KEITH: Yes, and she's going to talk about that. She's also going to make some contrasts with Donald Trump because this is the beginning of the general election. And she is going to make a nod to Bernie Sanders and his supporters. And you know, this speech is part of what will inevitably be a long process of trying to win them over.

SHAPIRO: Speaking of Bernie Sanders and his supporters, Sam, we're hearing on your cell phone line some applause and other noise in the background. You're in Silver Lake, kind of hipster central Los Angeles.

SANDERS: Absolutely.

SHAPIRO: What's the scene there?

SANDERS: Total hipster central. The candidate right now is walking by a farmers market on Sunset Boulevard.

SHAPIRO: Of course.

SANDERS: He's been greeted for the last several blocks by literally thousands of supporters who have lined the block. He made a stop earlier today on Hollywood Boulevard. He's been treated like a rock star the whole day.

SHAPIRO: So for a guy who's being treated like a rock star, any sign that he sees this as his last laugh?

SANDERS: No. He had a press conference yesterday and said that he would keep campaigning post-California. He was going to go to Vermont to go home on Wednesday but then come to D.C. on Thursday to campaign because that primary there is next Thursday. So they've given no signs that they're going to quite.

SHAPIRO: What do you hear from the supporters who he is shaking hands and signing autographs for? Are they prepared to rally around whoever the Democratic nominee is, or is there a lot of Bernie or bust sentiment?

SANDERS: Not yet. Lots of folks have not accepted that count of delegates. They want every state to be able to vote. They want to challenge at the convention, and they just don't trust the party right now.

SHAPIRO: Even if she decisively wins California, you think that's going to be the case even if this talk about superdelegates versus pledged and unpledged delegates is put to rest?

SANDERS: I mean, that could change over time. But I talked to folks last night in San Francisco at his rally who said the numbers are not relevant to them at all. They don't trust the numbers, and they don't trust the system.

SHAPIRO: Tamara Keith, what do you think Hillary Clinton is likely to say to try to win over those people?

KEITH: What she has been saying and is likely to continue saying is that they have more in common than they don't, that there's more agreement than disagreement. And then there's the old Trump card. She (laughter), you know...

SHAPIRO: So to speak (laughter).

KEITH: ...Is going to say - so to speak - pun intended - that Donald Trump is so much of a threat, she would say, to the United States that Bernie Sanders' supporters really should ultimately side with her. Now, many Sanders supporters would say that's a lesser of two evils situation, and they just won't stand for it. They would vote for Jill Stein. They would vote for someone else. And so Hillary Clinton does have a challenge on her hands to get the most die-hard Sanders supporters to believe that they should vote for her.

SHAPIRO: Jill Stein being a Green Party candidate of course.


SHAPIRO: Domenico Montanaro, this was the night exactly eight years ago that Hillary Clinton delivered a speech calling for party unity and effectively conceding to Barack Obama although it took her a few more days to actually end the campaign. Looks like we're not going to see that from Bernie Sanders tonight.

MONTANARO: Right. We should say that this is the eight-year anniversary of the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling concession speech that Hillary Clinton delivered calling for unity with Bernie Sanders. I'm sorry (laughter) - calling for unity with Barack Obama.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: Excuse me. She's hoping that that same thing can happen with Bernie Sanders. But we should note that four days earlier when Barack Obama was declared the presumptive nominee on June 3, 2008, same basically as tonight, she did not concede. She did not drop out. She delivered a very gracious speech, saying - praising Obama's campaign and his candidacy, praising the people that he brought into the race but was not quite yet ready to give up. Now, she has very different incentives.


MONTANARO: Four days later, she wound up dropping out, conceding to President - to now-President Obama, trying to unify, but she wanted to run again, OK? Bernie Sanders - no one expects that he'll run again, so what does Bernie want is going to be a big, big question mark here.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, apart from the presidential race, there are some down-ballot races happening around the country that are kind of interesting. What are you going to be looking at tonight?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, there's already a big story developing in North Carolina where it looks like Republican Renee Ellmers is going to lose. She's going to be the first Republican incumbent, it looks like, to lose. And it's really fascinating to watch that dynamic because she's somebody who came in with the Tea Party wave but then kind of went establishment and kind of got eaten by the Tea Party as she came back and tried to hold onto this seat. We're going to watch that and watch some races in California. There's the potential for the Senate seat there to develop who's going to - what the fight will wind up being.

SHAPIRO: Lots more news to come tonight, and many local public radio stations will be carrying special live coverage as the night unfolds and we get these results from California, New Jersey, six states in all. We've been speaking with NPR's Domenico Montanaro, Tamara Keith, Sam Sanders. Thanks to all of you.

KEITH: You're welcome.

SANDERS: Thank you.

MONTANARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and thrown herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and the insurrection. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic, breaking news about global vaccine sharing and plans for distribution of vaccines to children under 12.
Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.
Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.