Bernie Sanders Just Beat Hillary Clinton in One of the Most Surprising States

Bernie Sanders Just Beat Hillary Clinton in One of the Most Surprising States
Source: AP
Source: AP

Four years ago, Oklahoma ranked among the most rock-ribbed Republican states in the country, awarding 67% of the vote to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama.

The same deeply conservative, energy-intensive state just handed a Brooklyn, New York-born socialist one of his few primary victories.

At 9:13 p.m. Tuesday, the Associated Press projected Bernie Sanders had defeated Hillary Clinton in the Sooner State. With Sanders having trounced Clinton in Vermont, his Great Plains triumph guarantees he'll win at least two of the five states he targeted for victory Tuesday. 

While the state may seem like inhospitable territory for a candidate like Sanders, it actually boasts a rich history of left-wing activism. In the early 20th century, the agrarian-centric Socialist Party showed robust support there, with its gubernatorial candidate winning 20% of the vote in 1914. The state also elected liberal populist Fred Harris to the Senate later in the century.  

Sanders' campaign saw opportunity in that history, and his message of combating income inequality clearly resonated in the state, drawing around 7,000 supporters to a Tulsa rally last week. 

While winning Oklahoma won't suffice to steal the race's momentum from Clinton, Sanders' victory there underscores the resilience of his populist coalition — a constituency Clinton needs in her corner if she emerges as the Democratic nominee.