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Democrats Back Presumptive Nominee Hillary Clinton With Shared Aim To Defeat Trump

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee. President Obama endorsed her in a shiny new video after meeting with Bernie Sanders, who vowed to compete in the last primary of the season next week in the District of Columbia. But he said he shares Hillary Clinton's interest in defeating Donald Trump. Many Republicans are divided, upset and anxious about their presidential nominee after Donald Trump suggested that a judge of Mexican-American ancestry could not be fair. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Let's mark history as much as politics. Ninety-six years after the 19th Amendment gave American women the right to vote, Hillary Clinton became the first woman who will be a major party candidate for president. She's had a remarkable week.

ELVING: Yes, it is very hard to imagine how it could've been better this past week for Hillary Clinton. She won four of the last five primary states. Then you had the double embrace by President Obama and Elizabeth Warren, which goes a long way toward healing the party after a long nomination fight. And yeah, these had to be the best moments for Hillary Clinton since that first debate last fall and her all-day performance before the House committee investigating Benghazi.

SIMON: And how much value is the president's endorsement, which did come pretty quickly?

ELVING: It's absolutely essential as a starting point if you're in the president's party. But as such, it's pretty much a given. So the real question is the degree of enthusiasm and effort that the president's going to put in and how popular the president himself might be. Those kinds of things are often missing or just negative for a nominee. There's a strange relationship, as there was with George W. Bush and John McCain, or just a tepid one - say, like Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Obama, by contrast, shows every sign of being a dynamo for Hillary Clinton, and that's actually highly unusual. In fact, it's hard to think of a president who's been both popular enough and willing and also able to campaign aggressively for his successor in the last century or so.

SIMON: Any doubt that when the dust clears Bernie Sanders is supporting Hillary Clinton?

ELVING: Ultimately, no. Might come after the D.C. primary next week, which she's expected to win, or it could come after a little longer cooling-off period of a few days or weeks. Many of Sanders' supporters are still quite disappointed. And there's also a chance he might save his endorsement in formal terms for the convention in Philadelphia in later July so he can preserve his leverage between now and then, much like Jesse Jackson did back in 1988.

SIMON: Let's move to Donald Trump and the Republicans. The top leaders of the Republican Party criticized Mr. Trump this week over those remarks about a federal judge. And you had a number of - Susan Collins of Maine, senator from Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - who said openly, we might have to abandon our nominee. We might prefer to have Hillary Clinton be president than to help elect this man. At the end of the week, though, is there any sign anyone's really going to try and derail the nomination?

ELVING: Many are actually trying, Scott. A conservative radio talk show host consortium has come out calling for some kind of a convention resistance to Donald Trump. But major figures such as Mitt Romney and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse and these fellows have been meeting for weeks, having summit conferences out in Utah and what have you, and thus far they have not come up with a horse to ride or a strategy to follow. So an actual rebellion at the convention where they change the rules perhaps to require a super majority on the first ballot - that's highly unlikely at this point.

SIMON: And in the interest of humility (laughter) so many times we have said in this very forum, has Mr. Trump said something that is simply going too far? It - we have to ask - and we've been proven wrong whatever the answer. Has that happened this time?

ELVING: Mea culpa, mea culpa, yes. We all have to say that we have foreseen many downfalls of Donald Trump that have not happened. But in terms of this latest controversy over Judge Curiel, half the country is telling pollsters that these remarks were racist, and most of those who say they weren't racist still disapprove of those remarks. So this does appear to be the biggest flaw so far. Whether it's actually a puncture wound that'll continue to bleed depends on how he behaves going forward.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.