WASHINGTON | By Doina Chiacu and Ginger Gibson
Bitterness over the Democratic nominating process trailed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Wednesday as they headed into the final stretch of their protracted battle to represent the party in November's White House election.
On the Republican side, presumptive nominee Donald Trump ignited controversy over both domestic and foreign policy. In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Trump outlined a string of controversial proposals including dismantling most of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial regulations, calling for a renegotiation of the Paris climate accord and saying he is willing to meet with North Korea's leader. YES, YES RE DODD-FRANK - GET RID OF THAT FINANCIAL BEAST, AND GET RID OF THE PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD - THE ACCORD IS JUST TO COLLECT WORLDWIDE TAXES AND THE N. KOREA SITUATION, TRUMP CAN DO THAT MEETING AND WIN IN A BLINK.
As Trump, who all but secured his party's nomination when his last two rivals dropped out this month, focused squarely on the Nov. 8 general election, the Democrats faced a feud over a chaotic state party convention in Nevada at the weekend that included a chair thrown by Sanders supporters.
More Democrats urged Sanders on Wednesday to take a stronger stand against the uprising by his supporters in Nevada and said he did not go far enough in condemning the violence there.
"That was the time to have sent a full-throated message to his followers: that we don't do this kind of thing," U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said on CNN.
Democrat Barbara Boxer, the other U.S. senator from California, was at the Nevada convention and expressed her concern to Sanders in a phone call on Tuesday night. "I feared for my safety and had a lot of security around me," she told CNN. "I've never had anything like this happen."
Sanders said he condemned violence and harassment against individuals but he framed Nevada's incident as a warning to Democratic leaders to treat his supporters with fairness.
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, is determined to fight on against front-runner Clinton in what has become a longer-than-expected and sometimes acrimonious battle. In contests Tuesday, Clinton narrowly edged out Sanders in Kentucky, a state where she had not been expected to win. Sanders won Oregon, a state that played to his strengths.
Democrats are faced with a delicate balancing act as long as Sanders remains in the primary race, needing to pivot toward Trump without taking Clinton's nomination for granted and alienating passionate backers of Sanders.
Sparring on Tuesday between the Sanders camp and the Democratic National Committee leader over the Nevada events further threatened party unity less than two months before its national convention in July in Philadelphia.
"Unaddressed, the toxic relationship between DNC @ @SenSanders campaign, so evident last night, could cast dark cloud over Philly convention," David Axelrod, a former top Obama strategist, said on Twitter.
UPHILL BATTLE FACES CLINTON
Despite having an almost unassailable lead in the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination, and with the primary battle heading toward the final contests next month, Clinton will need Sanders supporters on her side in the general election.
According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos survey, what played out in Nevada is just a glimpse into the uphill battle Clinton faces in courting them.
If Clinton wins the nomination, for every six Democrats who support Sanders, one will switch their allegiance to Trump in the general election and two say they would not support either candidate. Only three of every six say they would support Clinton as the party’s nominee.
Sanders' campaign has long accused party leaders of favoring Clinton, a former U.S. senator and secretary of state, for the presidential nomination in the face of his unexpectedly strong primary challenge.
On Saturday, his supporters in Nevada became angry at the delegate selection process, booing, yelling and hurling insults, and at least one chair, toward the convention leaders.
Nevada Democratic Party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, said she and her family, including a 5-year-old grandson, have received death threats and numerous callers have disrupted her workplace.
On Wednesday, Lange said she wanted Sanders to acknowledge the threats, and apologize.
"His statement was pretty weak," she said on CNN. "Until you say you're sorry, until you say what happened in Nevada should not have happened and it was wrong and it was fueled by your senior campaign staff people, then that's an apology and then I think there's some responsibility is taken."
She defended the state party's delegate selection process and said Clinton's campaign was better organized, adding that "he was going to lose the convention no matter what because they didn't turn out their people."
Growing uproar this week over the events in Nevada prompted party leaders including DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and senior U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada to call on Sanders to rein in his supporters.
Wasserman Schultz told CNN on Tuesday night that, "Unfortunately, the senator's response was anything but acceptable. It certainly did not condemn the supporters for the violence and added more fuel to the fire."
Sanders spokesman Jeff Weaver said on Wednesday that Sanders categorically condemned any kind of threats as unacceptable.
"We can have a long conversation about Debbie Wasserman Schultz just about how she's been throwing shade on the Sanders campaign from the very beginning," Weaver told CNN.
(Addition reporting by Alana Wise, Susan Heavey, Megan Cassella in Washington; Chris Kahn in New York; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry)