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Sanders Criticizes Democratic Nominating Process During New Mexico Rally

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic presidential nomination unless something very dramatic and unexpected happens. But the Democratic race for president looks to remain contentious right up until June. Both candidates continue to campaign hard. That means NPR's Tamara Keith is working hard. Thanks for being with us, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

SIMON: You're in Albuquerque. Bernie Sanders held a rally last night. What was it like? What did he say?

KEITH: Well, it was another one of Bernie Sanders' sort of signature, huge rallies. Seven thousand people at the convention center - very long line to get in. And the speech hit many of the same points that he's been making his entire campaign - income inequality, free public college, Medicare for all, climate change.

He also hit Hillary Clinton on things like her highly paid speeches, her Iraq War vote. And then he turned his criticism to the Democratic nominating process. Clinton has a lead in pledged delegates awarded through primaries and caucuses, but she also has a massive lead among superdelegates. These are the party leaders. Bernie Sanders calls them the establishment.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN RALLY)

BERNIE SANDERS: Over 400 of these superdelegates indicated their support for Secretary Clinton before anyone else was in the race, before the first ballot was cast.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)

SANDERS: That is - that is what the anointment process is about and it is a bad idea.

KEITH: You hear all those boos there. But it's sort of an interesting strategy at this point 'cause superdelegates are now very much part of Bernie Sanders' path to the nomination. His path, as his campaign describes it, now involves convincing those very people - those very superdelegates - that he would be a better candidate to take on Donald Trump.

SIMON: I'm sure you raised irony with a lot of his supporters last night when you interviewed them, right? What did they have to say?

KEITH: (Laughter) I did not raise irony. You know, they are in sort of an interesting place. They know that the math is the math, but they really like Bernie Sanders a lot. And they don't like Hillary Clinton as much or sometimes at all. One woman came up and said, could you please just, like, stop talking about how unlikely it is that Sanders will be the nominee? And I started talking about the math. And she was like, come on - I believe in miracles.

Several people told me they hoped he would make an independent run. One person mentioned Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. Another suggested voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian. Most of them, though, said that they would vote for Clinton, though one would only say, I will vote for my party's nominee, which is exactly what many of the Republicans who are reluctant to support Donald Trump are saying.

SIMON: Hillary Clinton has not been on cruise control this week, has she?

KEITH: No, she has been fundraising, and she has also done an interview that made some news. She went on CNN with Chris Cuomo. She said she didn't think Donald Trump was qualified to be president and said his positions aren't just offensive, they're dangerous. That prompted several tweet storms from him. And she also said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CNN EXCLUSIVE")

HILLARY CLINTON: I will be the nominee for my party, Chris. That is - that is already done, in effect. There is no way that I won't be.

KEITH: So, at times, she has moved on to the general election. And other times, she's - you know, she's going to be campaigning a ton in California next week.

SIMON: Worries that this sharp tone extends - has any implications for November?

KEITH: Yeah, that was the big question I had heading into that rally last night. Polling would indicate that Sanders supporters have an increasingly negative view of Hillary Clinton. And that definitely came through last night in talking to folks, but they also have an even more negative view of Donald Trump. And so they are - they're sort of working through it at this point.

SIMON: NPR's Tamara Keith, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.