Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

Politics In The News: Race For Delegates Heats Up


We're going to start of this hour with politics, and in particular, Bernie Sanders, who had a pretty good weekend. He beat Hillary Clinton in three Democratic contests - in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state. So what do you do when you have a good run in this presidential primary? Well, you do a victory lap on the Sunday talk shows, of course. Here's Bernie Sanders on NBC's "Meet The Press."


BERNIE SANDERS: We have the momentum, and I think a lot of the superdelegates are now beginning to look at which Democratic candidate is in the best place to defeat Donald Trump. I think some of them are beginning to understand that it's Bernie Sanders.

MARTIN: He's got a long distance to catch up the Hillary Clinton, though, on the delegate count. And while Donald Trump is still the Republican front-runner, he has his own delegate troubles - finding a viable path to the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Here's Trump speaking on ABC's "This Week."


DONALD TRUMP: I have so many more votes and so many more delegates. And frankly, whoever - at the end, whoever has the most votes and the most delegates should be the nominee.

MARTIN: Joining us now on Skype to talk about this, as she does most Mondays, is columnist and commentator Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.


MARTIN: We are also joined in studio by Ben Domenech. He's co-founder of the conservative digital newsmagazine The Federalist. Hey, Ben.

BEN DOMENECH: Good to be with you .

MARTIN: I'll start with you, Ben. Like we said, it was a big weekend for Bernie Sanders, sweeping three states. In isolation, it seems like a big deal, but can you put those wins in context for us? Where is the Sanders campaign right now?

DOMENECH: The Sanders campaign right now is looking at a map ahead where they are optimistic about being able to take a number of states that are more white, more northeastern, things of that nature. He expects to do very well in Wisconsin. But when it comes to the math, it really is very strongly against Sanders. It looks to be a situation where, even as his supporters gather around him in these states and send a message to the Democratic Party about either their discontent with Hillary Clinton or their belief in Sanders' messages when it comes to his form of democratic socialism, it's still something that doesn't really put him on a path where he can conceivably contend for the nomination. It's more of an expression of feeling at this point.

ROBERTS: The thing to keep in mind is that Democrats always do delegates proportionally, so there's no opportunity to have a big, winner-take-all in any state. And he would have to get 73 percent of all of the remaining delegates to get the nomination on the first ballot. That's an awful lot to go for. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Commentator Cokie Roberts incorrectly says that Bernie Sanders needs 73 percent of all remaining delegates to get the nomination on the first ballot. In fact, he needs 67 percent, including superdelegates.]

MARTIN: Even so, Cokie, this race is clearly much closer than the Clinton camp expected it would be. How - how is he, in this moment, still affecting her messaging? Is he affecting her messaging?

ROBERTS: Oh, yes, he has been very much so. He has pushed her to the left to the degree that left and right matter in this election, and that's - that is likely to be a problem for her in the general election. And I think he's also changed the direction of the Democratic Party. And look, Hillary Clinton is nowhere near out of the woods here. Today, The Washington Post has an enormous story about her e-mails, bringing that issue back to the fore. So there's a lot to do before we finish with the Democratic nomination, without even getting to the Republican nomination.

MARTIN: Indeed, so let's get there, to the Republican side of the race. We've been saying for weeks that, on the GOP side, it's close enough it may end being decided on the convention floor. Trump keeps saying he's going to win outright, but there are now reports, Ben, that he's at least preparing for the possibility of a contested convention, right? What do we know?

DOMENECH: There's very early reports about the sort of steps that he would take in that scenario. Trump, I think, is acknowledging and his team is acknowledging that, over the past couple of weeks, his momentum has stilled a little bit, that as the field has shrunk that that is a situation where there is a path to blocking him from getting to that 1,237 mark and potentially a situation where he could see a number of different delegates lining up against him.

The problem for Trump is really this - up until this past week, he really only made one clear tactical error - skipping that debate before the Iowa caucuses. In this past week, a little bit more than that - he's made a number of errors in addition to that - ignoring the delegate battles that have played out at the state levels in states like Louisiana, where he's threatening now to file a lawsuit as of last night, even though they're following the traditional rules of how you select delegates, and frankly, engaging in the kind of animosity-driven, baseless personal attacks that you've seen against Ted Cruz and his wife.

MARTIN: We've seen that tit-for-tat. Go ahead, Cokie.

ROBERTS: And that has really been quite something to behold, these two purportedly grown man going after each other and each other's wives in this kind of my-wife's-prettier-than-your-wife thing. And it has been really disheartening for the Republican Party to watch and for American women to watch. Seventy-four percent of American women said in the recent ABC/Washington Post poll that they had an unfavorable view of Donald Trump. You know, I must say, Rachel, people do ask me all the time, is this a new low? No. This happened back with Thomas Jefferson and Dolly Madison, where she was accused of unsexing James Madison because she was overly sexed.



MARTIN: I've not heard that about Dolly.

ROBERTS: This was in the public press, and Thomas Jefferson was accused of pimping her and her sisters in exchange for votes. So we've been here before, but it's not really a place we want to be.

DOMENECH: Can I just add...

MARTIN: Real brief.

DOMENECH: ...Very briefly - Ted Cruz actually never attacked Donald Trump's wife, which is one of the things that Trump has been getting away with saying for a while.

MARTIN: It was a super PAC. We've heard it. We'll probably hear more about it. Ben Domenech, co-founder of the conservative digital newsmagazine The Federalist, and commentator and columnist Cokie Roberts, thanks to you both.

DOMENECH: Good to be with you.

ROBERTS: Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: March 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
Commentator Cokie Roberts incorrectly says that Bernie Sanders needs 73 percent of all remaining delegates to get the nomination on the first ballot. In fact, he needs 67 percent, including superdelegates.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.