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With Clinton The Presumptive Nominee, Sanders Mulls Next Step


So what next for Sanders? Let's ask Paul Kirk, former Massachusetts senator, former Democratic National Committee chairman and one of the few superdelegates committed to Sanders. Good morning.

PAUL KIRK: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: We just heard the president calling on Democrats to pull things together, hoping we're able to pull things together. Do you know what message Senator Sanders plans to deliver at the White House today?

KIRK: No, I think his message will continue to be delivered until next Tuesday to the voters in the District of Columbia. I believe that this - and that we have six weeks till the convention, as the president said at the top of the show, that there'll be time to have constructive conversations about a united convention in which, my expectation is, Senator Sanders will play a significant part.

KELLY: What do you mean by significant part? What kind of role do you anticipate he will play at the convention?

KIRK: Well, I think, you know, he's amassed some 45 percent of pledged delegates. He's expanded the party base. He's had a historic fundraising campaign, but from small donors - 7 million small donors - and been competitive in that.

So he's really had a historic run, contributed a great deal to the dialogue. So my expectation and hope is that his name can be placed in nomination. And he'll be allowed the opportunity to speak to the party and to the country.

KELLY: So am I hearing you correctly? Do you believe he should keep campaigning? He should not suspend his campaign between now and the convention?

KIRK: Well, I think after the District of Columbia, he'll make his own decision. But I think the campaign has to be focused on the opposition in November. It's going to be a tough campaign in any event. And we'll need a voice as vibrant and as compelling as we can in the person of Bernie Sanders, as well, of course, as Secretary Clinton.

KELLY: OK. But not to dance around the question here of how long Senator Sanders should maintain a formal campaign - I mean, what about the concerns that his remaining in the race weakens Hillary Clinton to the benefit of Donald Trump as we look forward to November, as you just mentioned?

KIRK: Well, once the delegates have folded in, I mean - effectively, if this is what happens, then the campaign will be on kind of a glide path in - to get to the convention. They'll be working on platform committee, rules committee, credentials committee and his role in forming the new platform and his role at the convention. That's a lot of work to do. And - so that'll be an important step between now and then.

KELLY: One way or the other, if Democrats are to pull things together, as the president is calling on them to do, Senator Sanders' supporters are going to have to get in behind Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee. How hard will that be? We heard the crowd booing when Sanders mentioned Clinton in his speech after the primaries this week.

KIRK: Right. And I think that's going to be up to the tone that's set by both Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders - to have an effect on folks who are new to the process and actually will be an enormous contribution to the expansion of the base come November.

KELLY: A lot of work in the coming weeks.

KIRK: Indeed.

KELLY: That is former senator and DNC Chair Paul Kirk. He's a superdelegate for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Thanks so much for speaking to us, Senator.

KIRK: You're quite welcome, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.