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Politics In The News: Sanders Presses On In Democratic Contests

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are going after each other general election style already. Over the weekend, it was on the issue of guns. Donald Trump spoke at the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville on Friday.

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DONALD TRUMP: Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment. Just remember that. We're not talking about change it. She wants to abolish the Second Amendment. So we're not going to let that happen. I can tell you that right now. We're going to preserve it. We're going to cherish it. We're going to take care of it.

GREENE: And on Saturday, Hillary Clinton talked about guns in a very different way at a gathering of mothers who have lost children to gun violence.

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HILLARY CLINTON: If you want to imagine what Trump's America will look like, picture more kids at risk of violence and bigotry. Picture more anger and fear. Ask any of the mothers here tonight if they want to live in that kind of America. Enough is enough.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

So there you go, the leading presidential candidates taking swipes at each other on a key issue - in this case, guns. Joining us now is columnist and NPR commentator Cokie Roberts plus Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of the conservative publication National Review. Great to have both of you with us.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee. Good Morning, Jonah.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Good Morning, Cokie. Great to be here.

MONTAGNE: OK. And good morning to you all. Cokie, let's start with you. Polling over the weekend showed Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a statistical dead heat. The Washington Post-ABC News poll had Clinton leading Trump 46 percent to 43 percent, and that's a dead heat. Why is Clinton slipping this way?

ROBERTS: And the same in the NBC poll and the Fox poll. I mean, all of them basically tied. And what you're seeing is Trump's negative shrinking. And so this is a serious, serious problem for the Democrats, who thought that they had a cakewalk to the presidency, which was never true. But they are now beginning to realize that it's not true.

And the main reason - there's a couple of reasons. Hillary Clinton has never been a particularly strong candidate. But clearly, Bernie Sanders' continuing campaign is taking its toll. And we are seeing that particularly among young people who are really off of her in these polls. And he is pledging to stay in at least until the convention. And that could be another great big problem that Democrats have to worry about, Renee, because the possibility of disruption at the Democratic convention, not the Republican convention, is now very high. And so that bounce coming off of a convention could be completely negated.

MONTAGNE: And that speech we just heard a bit of - she gave it in Fort Lauderdale at an event supporting the Trayvon Martin Foundation. Was it aimed at winning over mostly women voters...

ROBERTS: Sure, sure.

MONTAGNE: ...Or sort of locking up that group?

ROBERTS: Well, white women, who will really decide this election if you look at - if these polls are to be believed. White men are overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. Non-college-age educated white men - she gets 14 percent of their vote. As my husband says, that's basically relatives. But the fact is is that white women are the deciders because she's got minorities very strongly. The fact that she doesn't have the youth vote as strongly as Obama did means that she is going to have to shore up the women's vote.

MONTAGNE: And Jonah Goldberg, the NRA officially endorsed Donald Trump on Saturday - no surprise there. But what does that do for him in terms of conservatives, maybe holdouts, that aren't so comfortable with him?

GOLDBERG: Yeah. Actually, I think it was a little bit of a surprise. And I think it's a telling one because normally the NRA does not endorse a candidate this early, even if we have a presumptive nominee. And I think one of the reasons that they did is 'cause there's a certain logic that's running through conservative ranks these days, which is since he's going to be the nominee anyway, everyone better get on board the, quote unquote, "Trump train" as soon as possible because that way conservatives who are uncomfortable with him will at least have a better shot of controlling him, of influencing him, of steering the train as it were.

And I think the NRA, who, you know, clearly doesn't like Hillary Clinton, whether she wants to in reality get rid of the Second Amendment or just gut it, they know that they were going to support Trump anyway. So getting on board now helps further consolidate the Republican ranks.

ROBERTS: Well, Jonah, you're not one of those people who wants to get on the Trump train, right?

GOLDBERG: Oh, no. I'm staying in the station no matter what.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: I still have this - I have this burning, yearning hope that at some point, Trump rips off his "Mission Impossible" mask or his "Scooby-Doo" mask and says, ha, I was Mitch Daniels all along. But I don't see that happening.

ROBERTS: The former governor of Indiana - but, Renee, one of the things in these polls that I found very interesting is that everybody's been saying, oh, moderate Republicans won't go for Trump. He's got this problem of people who will stay in the station. But in fact, in the ABC poll, more Romney voters are supporting Trump than Obama voters are supporting Clinton. So you're seeing a pretty solid going over to Trump in these polls.

MONTAGNE: Well, also over the weekend, there were more reports of Republicans moving over to support Trump, including some of Mitt Romney's allies. They've agreed to raise money for him. What about it - and this may be, Jonah, for you - have we kissed goodbye the, you know, #NeverTrump movement?

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, the Never Trump movement was always a pretty small group of essentially curmudgeonly, disgruntled, dyspeptic people like me on Twitter.

MONTAGNE: (Unintelligible).

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: And at the same time, you look at these polls and show - they show how unbelievably and deeply dissatisfied people from both sides of the aisle are in their choices between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And there is an argument for this third-party option. The problem is there's no personality to run as third party. And so some people haven't given up hope. There's constantly these murmurs on the right that so-and-so is reconsidering their position.

But for all intents and purposes, the Republican Party has officially galvanized and rallied around Donald Trump. And I think one of the reasons why Hillary's polling so badly right now against Donald Trump is that just simply hasn't happened with the Democrats. If it eventually does, you could see Hillary put up a 10-point lead over Donald Trump. But who knows?

ROBERTS: But, you know, in this third-party polling, it's about 44, 45, 46 percent, depending on the poll. But I went back and looked at 2012 and in Gallup in September of 2012, it was 46 percent. I mean, it's about the same number.

MONTAGNE: OK.

ROBERTS: And that's because people like the idea of choice, but they don't necessarily have a candidate.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you both. That's columnist and commentator Cokie Roberts plus Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at National Review.

GOLDBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.