GOP Primary Results Were Predictable; Democrat Sanders Wins West Virginia
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And let's get caught up now on the presidential primaries, which, believe it or not, are almost over. West Virginia and Nebraska voted yesterday. And we have NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson on the line. And Mara, the conventions are actually in sight here. We're getting close.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: July is coming.
GREENE: July is coming. OK, so two states yesterday - kind of break down what happened. And what did we learn from it?
LIASSON: Well, there was no suspense on the Republican side. Donald Trump is the only candidate left. So yesterday, he won Nebraska and West Virginia. Democrats actually did go to the polls in Nebraska. But they had awarded their convention delegates back in March. And Bernie Sanders won those caucuses.
But in West Virginia, Democrats did vote last night. Bernie Sanders won. This was a very hard state for Hillary Clinton - a lot of white, working-class voters who in the past have given Sanders a lot of their support. And she was burdened by her unfortunate comments about coal miners, which really hurt her in the state. She had said that clean energy is going to put a lot of coal miners out of work. That really hurt her.
GREENE: So, you know, like a week ago, there were rumblings that we might be getting hints from Bernie Sanders that he would be dropping out soon. Does he have the momentum back now?
LIASSON: He's not dropping out soon. He's going to go all the way to the convention. He does have some momentum. He won West Virginia last night, Indiana before that. And looking ahead to next week, Kentucky and Oregon, those are two very good states for him. Jeff Merkley, the Democratic senator from Oregon, has endorsed Sanders. He is the only one of Sen. Sanders' Senate colleagues who has.
But the math is still almost prohibitive for Sanders. He still needs 84 percent of the remaining delegates. And because Democrats distribute their delegates proportionally, he netted only a handful of delegates last night.
GREENE: Well, I mean, Mara, the superdelegates on the Democratic side - these are governors and senators and others sort of close to the party - Bernie Sanders makes the argument that many of them have pledged support to Hillary Clinton but that he will make the argument that he is the person who could beat Donald Trump. I mean, if he wins these remaining states - and, I mean, does that make his argument more decisive? Could some of these superdelegates switch over?
LIASSON: I think they could switch over if the same thing happened in - happens this year that happened in 2008, which is the superdelegates started out with Hillary Clinton. But when Barack Obama started winning delegates, pulling ahead of her in pledged delegates, they switched to him. That hasn't happened yet this year. And Sanders says that superdelegates should vote the way their states did - or do. Even if that happened, he still would be behind her.
And that's raising a lot of questions for Democrats about whether the party will be able to unify. Sanders is telling his supporters he still thinks he can win the nomination. There is a group of Sanders supporters called Bernie or Bust saying that they won't switch to Hillary Clinton. They won't unify. But that was also true to an even larger extent in 2008, when about 40 percent of Hillary Clinton's supporters said that they wouldn't vote for Barack Obama. But in the end, the party did unify.
GREENE: And, Mara, let's just turn to the Republican side here. Big meeting tomorrow at the Capitol, Donald Trump sitting down with House Speaker Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans. What do we expect there?
LIASSON: Not sure. Donald Trump has said this could be the meeting they have before they, quote, "go their own separate ways." Paul Ryan has said he wants to endorse Trump, but he's just not there yet. He wants to see changes in Trump's tone and substance, make sure he shares conservatives' values and principles.
The Trump-Ryan split is pretty big because Ryan is the highest-ranking Republican in the government. And it's going to be hard for Trump to unify the party without Ryan on board. Trump has said he'd like a unified party, but he's not sure that's necessary. And he did say to The Wall Street Journal last week - he said, quote, "this election is not about the Republican Party. It's about me."
GREENE: OK, lots to think about as we have that meeting tomorrow in Washington between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.