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As Primary Drags On, Sanders Supporters Grow More Opposed To Clinton


Hillary Clinton's lead over Bernie Sanders is big enough that she will almost certainly clinch her party's nomination on June 7. That does not mean Bernie Sanders is going anywhere. NPR's Tamara Keith reports on whether this protracted fight will damage Clinton in a general election and whether Sanders supporters would back Clinton as the Democratic nominee.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: On social media, the idea of Bernie or Bust is ever-present, right along with the hashtag #NeverHillary. But is it a lasting, widespread movement or the emotions of a heated primary? I went to Bernie Sanders' recent rally in Albuquerque on a mission - to ask as many of his supporters as I could what they would do if he isn't the nominee. Lydia Allen seemed to be purposely avoiding uttering Hillary Clinton's name as we spoke.

LYDIA ALLEN: I most likely will be supportive of the Democratic Party.

KEITH: Her friend, Charey Fox, put it another way.

CHAREY FOX: I will support Trump not getting into office, but it breaks my heart.

KEITH: Another Sanders supporter, Santiago Romero, told me he'd been talking to his grandmother about the presidential election.

SANTIAGO ROMERO: I know this is extreme, but I said Donald Trump could literally run against anyone else, even Satan himself, and I would not vote for Donald Trump.

KEITH: So yeah, Romero said he'll pull the lever for Hillary Clinton in the fall if she's the Democratic nominee. But he won't feel good about it.

ROMERO: You wouldn't see me at another rally. You wouldn't see me fired up about politics again. But I would definitely go out and vote. But it wouldn't be - I wouldn't be excited about casting my vote for Hillary.

KEITH: Polls show the longer the primary has dragged on, the more negative Sanders supporters feel about Clinton. Even as the nomination gets further from his reach, Sanders has kept up his attacks on Clinton - her big-dollar fundraisers, her Wall Street speeches. Waiting in line to get into the rally, Torran Kahleck said he wouldn't describe itself as a Bernie or Bust-er, but he also doesn't trust Clinton.

TORRAN KAHLECK: Sort of waffling back and forth about whether I vote for her.

KEITH: If Sanders isn't an option, he said he'd consider voting for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. But he fears doing something that could indirectly help Trump.

KAHLECK: I think my wife is definitely going to vote for Hillary if that's who the nominee is, but I don't know that I will yet. We'll see.

KEITH: For Matthew Bradburn, there wasn't a question in his mind.

MATTHEW BRADBURN: I'm Bernie or Bust because I really have huge objections to another Clinton administration - absolutely have objections to that.

KEITH: He said there was too much political calculation, too many lies. Bradburn was the rare Sanders supporter I interviewed who expressed no hesitation. He's thinking he'll just abstain in November. Peter Hart, who conducted the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released this afternoon, says fewer than 10 percent of Sanders supporters said they would consider voting for a Republican in the general election.

PETER HART: But in the end of the day, these people are Democrats through and through. And they like Hillary Clinton enough, and they don't like Donald Trump at all.

KEITH: But Matthew Bradburn's daughter, Sophia Bradburn, who's in college and came to the rally with him, isn't taking as hard a line as her father.

SOPHIA BRADBURN: I know that if I have to pick between two candidates, I'm going to go with the Democratic candidate.

KEITH: And that's the thing about elections - they are choices. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.