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As Democratic Convention Nears, The Battle To Unite Under One Candidate

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hillary Clinton is less than a hundred votes away from clinching the Democratic nomination for president. But Bernie Sanders is still running and still winning delegates. Just as a lot of Republicans seem to be falling in line behind Donald Trump, a lot of Democrats seem to be put out with each other.

Ed Rendell joins us now, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, governor of Pennsylvania and mayor of Philadelphia, where the Democrats will have their convention. Mr. Rendell has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Thanks very much for being with us.

ED RENDELL: My pleasure.

SIMON: Will it be the Democrats who wind up having the contested convention?

RENDELL: Well, I think we'll have a contest, but, you know, it's interesting. People are acting like this is extraordinarily unusual, what's happening in the Democratic contest. But really just look back first just to 2008 when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced each other in the primaries. Hillary stayed in way past the time that she had any hope of actually capturing the nomination. So certainly we can't - the Hillary Clinton forces - we can't [expletive] about Bernie Sanders staying in until the last primary. He has every right to do that.

And I think Bernie Sanders is going to have his name placed in nomination, so that the Sanders delegates will have the excitement of voting for him. Hillary Clinton will win, and she won't win in a rigged convention because if you throw out all the superdelegates, she will have won more than almost 55 percent of the elected delegates. So she'll have won fair and square, and hopefully that will be the end of it.

SIMON: Yeah, I think you anticipate my next question. A number of Sanders supporters and Senator Sanders himself say that your party rigged the rules in favor of Hillary Clinton with the primary lineup, with the debate lineup and by creating more than 700 slots for superdelegates who aren't elected by primary or caucus. How do you answer that?

RENDELL: Well, first of all, again, let me respond. If no superdelegates voted, Hillary Clinton would win the nomination handily because she has the most elected delegates and she has over three million more popular votes than Senator Sanders. Number two, in terms of the Sanders people who are irritated by the fact that in some primaries, in some states, only Democrats can vote. But they have to understand that that's not anything that the Democratic Party controls. Each state makes up its own rules.

SIMON: Mr. Rendell, any idea why it took Hillary Clinton 21 months after she left office to turn over official emails to the State Department, as the, apparently, the Federal Records Act requires? That was one of several points in the inspector general's report.

RENDELL: She, as soon as the State Department requested - all secretary of states turn over their emails. She was the first one to comply.

SIMON: So that explains the 21-month lapse or what?

RENDELL: There was no affirmative duty to turn over emails before this - State Department notified. The prevailing wisdom was - and you can go back, and Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice never turned over their emails, and neither did any of the other secretary of states.

SIMON: Are you worried about this becoming an issue?

RENDELL: No, I think the people who don't like Hillary Clinton - this will be an issue. But they were never voting for her to begin with.

SIMON: Episodically, I notice Donald Trump seems to compliment Bernie Sanders a lot in recent speeches.

RENDELL: Well, he did call him crazy.

SIMON: Well, but...

RENDELL: I don't know if you consider that a compliment. He said he was crazy. I mean...

SIMON: Well, let me get to my question because it does seem like he's making an appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters.

RENDELL: Oh, sure, absolutely, and why shouldn't he? You know, I think Hillary Clinton will make an appeal to John Kasich supporters and supporters who were for president - Governor Bush. She'll make an appeal to those moderate Republicans as well. So that's the name of the game. It happens every election.

SIMON: Would you have an argument for Bernie Sanders supporters who feel that they weren't dealt with fairly?

RENDELL: First of all, let me say, again, let me repeat. They were dealt with fairly. The Democratic Party does not set the rules about who can vote in states' primaries or caucuses. Now, having said that, I would vote to get rid of superdelegates. The platform committee can make that recommendation and the DNC could change that rule going forward. And I think it should be. I think the winner should be decided by whoever gets the most elected delegates. But another change that I would put in would be to get rid of the caucuses.

I think we saw on Tuesday - do you know that there was an election on Tuesday in the Democratic primaries? Washington had a primary election, but it was a beauty contest because it didn't determine the delegates. The delegates were determined by a caucus that was held about two months before. And Bernie Sanders won the caucus, got 72 percent of the delegates. Twenty-six thousand people voted in the caucus. On Tuesday night's primary, Hillary Clinton won by six points and 719,000 - almost 30 times the number of people who voted in the caucus voted in the primary.

So I would end the caucuses, make it all primaries in all states and no superdelegates. I would vote to support that and I hope that Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders ask the platform committee to do just that.

SIMON: Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania among many other offices, thanks very much for being with us.

RENDELL: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.