WASHINGTON - Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who waged a months-long battle with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, says he will meet with her after the last party primary Tuesday in Washington to discuss their political agendas before deciding whether to drop out of the race.
Sanders signaled last week that his campaign was nearing its end, but declined to quit the race until after voters in the heavily Democratic national capital have a chance to vote Tuesday, the last party election in the state-by-state nominating contests that started in February.
Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, last week clinched enough delegates to the party's July national nominating convention to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination for a major U.S. political party. President Barack Obama quickly endorsed her, but Clinton is faced with winning over Sanders' supporters for the November national election, particularly younger voters who overwhelmingly favored his candidacy.
Sanders told NBC's Meet the Press Sunday that defeating the presumptive Republican nominee, billionaire Republican nominee Donald Trump, is his first priority.
But he said he wants to make sure Clinton supports his priorities to battle the influence of Wall Street financial chieftains and fight income inequality in the United States before deciding the extent to which he can support her presidential candidacy.
"I look forward to sitting down with Secretary Clinton and see what kind of platform she is going to support and how aggressive she is going to be,'' he said on the CBS show Face the Nation. "Dependent on how Secretary Clinton comes down on many of these major issues will determine how closely we can work with her."
Sanders' supporters will have their say at the national convention in Philadelphia in shaping the party's policies after he defeated Clinton in 22 states, although she won 28 states and more than 3.7 million more votes than he did because her victories often were in much bigger states. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll Sunday, more than three-quarters of Democrats polled said Sanders should have a "major role" in setting the party's priorities and about 45 percent of the convention delegates will be Sanders supporters.
Clinton, while fending off the Sanders challenge, has for weeks been leveling sharp attacks against Trump. She has zeroed in on his contentious claim that a U.S. federal judge, of Mexican heritage, is biased against him in a consumer fraud case involving one of Trump's defunct businesses, because Trump is calling for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to halt the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S.
A divided Republican party
Trump is facing even more divisiveness within the Republican party over his candidacy than Clinton is among Democrats.
Numerous Republican party stalwarts have rebuked Trump for his brash comments disparaging Mexicans, Muslims, women, people with disabilities and war heroes.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, says he will not vote for either Trump or Clinton. Romney said Trump's views will lead to "trickle-down racism" in the United States and said his views are "extraordinarily dangerous to the character of America.
"I love this country," Romney told CNN. "I love the founders. I love what this country is built upon and its values and seeing this is breaking my heart."
On Saturday, Trump, a one-time television reality show host, blasted Romney, who lost the 2012 election to Obama, as a "choker" and a "stone-cold loser."
Referring to Clinton, Trump said Republicans "have a war to win against a very crooked politician. The Republican Party has to come together, they have to get their act together.
"I'd like to see the Republican leadership be very strong, very smart and you got to be cool," Trump told a crowd of about 2,000 in a sweltering hangar at the Pittsburgh International Airport. It was a warning to Republican leaders that party members run the risk of losing seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. "I'm going to win, but a lot of other people are not," Trump said.
With the Trump-Clinton contest for the November 8 national election now a virtual certainty, political surveys are showing Clinton pulling ahead as she seeks to become the first female U.S. president.
Real Clear Politics' current polling data shows Clinton with a 3.8 percentage point edge over Trump in an average of numerous national polls.
Numerous surveys also show her with an edge in the country's electoral college vote that determines the presidential outcome. U.S. presidential elections are not decided by a national popular vote, but rather by state-by-state contests, with each state's vote determined by its population and the size of its congressional representation.