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Nevada's State Party Convention Highlights Democrats' Turmoil

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Bernie Sanders came out swinging against Hillary Clinton yesterday. He says he wants to debate her again before the California primary on June 7. Meanwhile, Nevada's Democratic Party has filed a formal complaint accusing Sanders of inciting violence among his supporters at last weekend's state convention. On the line now is Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri. She is backing Hillary Clinton in this race. Good morning, Senator.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Good morning.

KELLY: Hi. So let me just recap on what could, I think, fairly be called a melee at the Democratic Convention in Nevada over the weekend. Sanders himself has said he condemns any and all forms of violence. Is that enough?

MCCASKILL: Well, I'm going to try to hold on to the hope that this was an aberration. It hasn't occurred other places. And I am very respectful of the amazing campaign that Bernie Sanders has waged and the thousands of passionate supporters that show up everywhere he goes to urge him on.

I think we need to kind of all take a deep breath and realize that this is about the issues we care about. And try not to get into - Bernie's to blame or Bernie needs to do more. I get it. I get it that he wants to stay in this race and make the points he's making with an exclamation mark between now and the end of the primaries.

KELLY: We heard from your fellow lawmaker, Congressman Raul Grijalva, on the show yesterday. He backs Bernie Sanders. And he was talking about what I think is probably a fairly deep grievance within the Sanders camp, saying they feel the party structure has been tilted toward Clinton from the beginning - that the debate schedule, for example, has favored her. Do you buy that?

MCCASKILL: Well, I actually think that Hillary Clinton is the one that would have benefited from more debates. I think she does very well in debates. I think her strength, her stability, her command of the issues comes across. I think people remember why she is in the position she's in when they see her at that podium. So I don't think that the debate schedule necessarily favored Hillary Clinton.

And I would make the point that as they talk about the process being unfair or not open, where Bernie Sanders has done the best is in states that have caucuses. And I, for one, don't like caucuses because they're not open to everyone. People who work during caucuses can't attend. You can't file an absentee ballot. You can't mail in a ballot. It is a very limited participation in caucuses. So I agree that we should do away with caucuses. But frankly, that's where Bernie Sanders has done very well.

KELLY: Setting aside the system and whether it is in fact rigged one way or the other - just a few seconds left, but how worried are you about the prospect of a drawn-out Democratic fight?

MCCASKILL: I know Bernie Sanders is in this because of the issues he cares about. And if I know Bernie well enough, I'm praying that he will remember that. And when the time comes - the primaries are over - he will decide that the most important thing he can do is unite on those issues with Hillary Clinton and make sure Donald Trump never sets foot in the Oval Office.

KELLY: OK. Thank you very much.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

KELLY: That's Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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