Super Tuesday Wins Would Move Clinton Closer To Democratic Nomination
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The presidential voting on this day could mark an astonishing moment for both political parties. Republicans could move closer to nominating a candidate their party leaders oppose.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The spectacle of Donald Trump has overshadowed somewhat a Democratic campaign that is also distinct. Hillary Clinton will become the first woman to win a major party nomination if she can outlast Bernie Sanders, who wants to be the first Democratic Socialist to do the same.
MONTAGNE: Clinton is leading, but has faced a stronger challenge throughout this campaign than many expected. With me now is Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota. He has worked in the Senate with Sanders, but is backing Clinton. Sen. Franken, welcome.
AL FRANKEN: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: What does this campaign reveal about your party?
FRANKEN: Well, I think that there are - we're a progressive party, and I think we have to progress in the race. I'm supporting Hillary Clinton. I've known her for 22 years. She's the hardest-working, smartest, toughest, most experienced person I know, and I think she'd be - make a great president.
MONTAGNE: Although surveys have shown Sanders running close in your state, Minnesota.
MONTAGNE: What is his appeal there?
FRANKEN: Well, we're a caucus state, so because it is a caucus state and, you know - I went through the caucus process - you tend to get the most committed people out. And so I think that very, you know, idealistic, progressive people tend to show up in larger numbers, and it may be reflected for them. And so I think it's going to be a very close race.
MONTAGNE: Now Hillary Clinton's campaign manager from 2008, Patti Solis Doyle, keep told us earlier this morning that it's actually Sanders whose call for big change captures the mood of younger voters, who we know are - many of them voting for him - that Sanders is disruptive, as she put it. First of all, is she right? And if so, how does Hillary Clinton compete with that?
FRANKEN: Well, I think she has been competing with that. And I think she's also - she's right. I mean, disruptive is good. I think that's - that means you have to really talk about and debate the issues that matter to people. Listen, I've been - since I started running in Minnesota in 2006, 2007, it became evident to me as I went around the state that college affordability was a big deal. And that's why, you know, Hillary has been fighting to make sure that people can go to college and emerge without debt, and I think that is a great approach. I've been working on these issues of, you know, just - we couldn't get relieving your college debt in the sense of just being able to refinance it a couple years ago, when Democrats were in charge of the Senate, or at least had the majority in the Senate.
FRANKEN: So I think that what Hillary is talking about is being a progressive, but being a progressive doing things that we can get done.
MONTAGNE: Well, as Solis Doyle put it - incremental, in a way, which certainly has its appeal.
FRANKEN: Well, incremental - another way of putting it is possible.
MONTAGNE: Well, let me ask you then about her weaknesses as a candidate in this environment. Well, what are they? You back her but realistically, what has she got to do?
FRANKEN: I think she's got to continue what she's been doing, which is winning these primary states, these caucus states, and accumulating enough delegates to be the nominee and then go against whoever the Republicans choose. They seem to - the Republicans seem to be liking Donald Trump, someone who, you know - I think that's unfortunate, but it seems like Republican voters are really turning out for him. I'm not sure I totally get it. He - from the moment he announced, he was talking about Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He's talked about banning Muslims but - from coming into this country, but that seems to be a popular message in the Republican Party right now.
FRANKEN: ...I think it'll be pretty much a contrast. This is my belief; in the fall, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And so I really believe that we as a party, the Democratic Party, are going to rally around Hillary, and I guess Republicans will rally around Donald Trump.
MONTAGNE: Well, let me ask you - Bill Clinton is reported...
FRANKEN: ...Donald Trump will be their guy.
MONTAGNE: Bill Clinton, though, is reported in The New York Times saying that Donald Trump should be taken seriously as a candidate.
FRANKEN: Oh, yes.
MONTAGNE: And he certainly, as you well know, wasn't early on and hasn't been up until rather recently. And just briefly - if he's nominated, is that a huge challenge to whoever the Democratic nominee is?
FRANKEN: Oh, I think you really should take him seriously because look, you're absolutely right, Renee. He wasn't taken seriously at first, but I think he's totally underestimated. And - but now you see that the Republicans who are voting in the Republican primaries really, really like this guy and, you know, everything he represents, which is, you know, trying to keep - do a religious test on who can come into this country, you know, not necessarily condemning the KKK. This seems to be a real strong Republican brand that I think they're all going to get behind.
MONTAGNE: Al Franken is a Democratic senator from Minnesota. He is backing Hillary Clinton for president. Thank you very much for joining us.
FRANKEN: Thank you, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.