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Predicting How Wisconsin's Democrats Will Vote In Tuesday's Primary

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Two numbers offered conflicting pictures of the Democratic presidential race. One is that Hillary Clinton still holds a big lead in the number of delegates. The other is that Bernie Sanders has won five of the last six states to vote. The race is close in Wisconsin, which votes today. Many polls show Sanders with an edge. Let's talk now to a Democratic strategist in Milwaukee, Sachin Chheda, who is supporting Hillary Clinton. Good morning, sir.

SACHIN CHHEDA: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What's making some of your fellow Democrats reluctant to embrace your candidate?

CHHEDA: Well, I think that when you have activists, and when you have people who care deeply about what the country's going to look like over the next 10 or 20 years, people want everything at once. And I do think that our fight in Wisconsin and across the country is really about incrementalism versus getting it all right now.

INSKEEP: And Hillary Clinton is the incremental candidate?

CHHEDA: I don't think there's any doubt about that. She's framed herself as the pragmatic one who can get things done but who isn't going to change the world radically in just a few months or just a few years.

INSKEEP: Do you actually try to tell your fellow Democrats that's a good thing? She's the person who's not going to change very much?

CHHEDA: Well, I don't think that's what I said...

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Granted, I understand what you mean...

CHHEDA: I think things aren't going to change as quickly as we'd like. We aren't going to have a radical change in a polarized era with lots of partisan fighting. But we have to make positive change. We think that the president has made tremendous progress, both in terms of reducing the deficit and bringing health insurance to people and putting forward positive social policy. So we do think that great change can happen, but it's got to be pragmatic, and it's got to be realistic in an era where people are very divided.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that Democrats broadly agree on what they want to do if their side is elected, it's just a question of the approach to take?

CHHEDA: I do think that's the case, yeah. I think there's a great joy in marriage equality. I think that people are glad that more people have health insurance. I think people want a smart and peaceful foreign policy. But I do think that people want wages to be higher for the middle class, and they want more racial and gender and social equality. And I think, very fairly, a lot of people want those changes to happen right now. And there's a debate about how we get there, and how we get there fastest and best.

INSKEEP: What do you think about the conversation about Hillary Clinton's campaign right now, which might be summarized as follows. The delegate math for Hillary Clinton is really good - remains really good. Losing one race after another is not good.

CHHEDA: I think that's fair to some degree, but, you know, we have a very proportional system. We have a very fair system of allocating delegates. You have to win everywhere. You have to at least come close in a lot of places. Sen. Sanders has a path to the nomination, but he has to win overwhelming majorities, and he hasn't been doing that. And he's unlikely to do that, demographically, in the states that are coming ahead. And in Wisconsin, we have a unique situation here where both sides - the Sanders supporters and the Hillary Clinton supporters - want a strong turnout because we have a regularly scheduled spring election. And we want a massive turnout so our progressive candidates down the ballot can be successful.

INSKEEP: I want to ask about one other thing in the little less than a minute that we have. What do you think explains the divide in Wisconsin which mirrors the divide in a lot of states, really? It's considered a blue state, went for Barack Obama in 2012, but it's also the state of Republican Governor Scott Walker, the state of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

CHHEDA: Yeah, we have a problem in the Democratic Party in getting our votes to turn out in every election. So in presidential years, going all the way back to 1988, we've set the stage for the Democratic nominee. But we haven't always been able to win in the off-year elections and in the spring elections. And so we really have a challenge as a party - again both Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters - in getting our votes to turn out in every election. And if we are able to do that, then we're going to be successful a lot more often.

INSKEEP: Mr. Chheda, pleasure talking with you.

CHHEDA: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Sachin Chheda is supporting Hillary Clinton. He is a Democratic strategist in Milwaukee, Wis., which votes today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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