Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had a question for Twitter. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Published 09/18/19 | Reading Time 2 min 5 sec
By Deon Osborne
The campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders feels confident he can win Oklahoma’s primary for the second time after announcing trips to Norman and Lawton this Sunday.
Josh Visnaw, a spokesperson for the campaign, said the plan is to use Norman as a launching pad for extreme grassroots organizing in the state. Sanders won Oklahoma’s Democratic primary election by 10 points in 2016.
“Norman being that progressive enclave is super important,” Visnaw said.
Sanders will speak at a rally at 3 p.m. in Norman’s Reaves Park Sunday afternoon.
Visnaw said Sanders will travel down to Lawton immediately after the Norman rally after being invited to speak at a Comanche Nation Fair Pow Wow at 6 p.m. Sunday evening.
These events mark Bernie Sanders’ first trip to Oklahoma. And they come several months sooner than when he visited the state ahead of the 2016 Democratic primary.
“We feel we have tons of momentum,” Visnaw said. “Getting the Senator here this early is something we’ve been working on and I think it shows our level of commitment that we think we can do well in Oklahoma and hopefully repeat 2016.”
The latest polls of Oklahoma voters paint a less optimistic picture.
As of August, both Sooner Poll and FiveThirtyEight, widely respected state and national political polling sites, currently have former Vice President Joe Biden in first place among Oklahoma Democrats at 26 percent.
Oklahoma Native and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren captured second place with 11 percent of those polled favoring her.
Sanders is currently in fifth place among Oklahoma voters behind Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California Senator Kamala Harris at five percent.
It’s worth noting that in the Fall before the 2016 election, local polls had Sanders in second place far behind Hillary Clinton, though he eventually went on to secure the Oklahoma primary.
In that election, the democratic socialist’s success was largely due to Independents and young people, who voted for him overwhelmingly over the moderate, Clinton.
Sanders hasn’t changed much of his campaign from 2016. He supports eliminating student debt, moving to renewable energy, confronting climate change, passing Medicare for all, living wages and unionization, and making the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes to fund his proposals.
He’s also been more direct about offering plans for racial justice and calling out white supremacy, no doubt an attempt to learn from his mistakes in 2016, where Clinton won much more of the Black vote than Sanders.
Sanders has also highlighted issues long ignored by Democratic candidates, such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Oklahoma has a high rate of these unsolved cases and efforts to study the problem are ongoing both statewide and nationally.
Sanders is among the top three Democratic presidential candidates nationally. Despite being in fifth place in Oklahoma at the moment, history shows that his presence at a rally can generate enormous excitement in a short amount of time.
“Norman is one of many areas in Oklahoma we want to go,” Visnaw said.
Oklahoma Voters will choose the Democratic candidate to go against President Trump during the primary election Tuesday, March 3 in 2020.
Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has written for OU’s student newspaper the OU Daily as well as OKC-based Red Dirt Report. He now lives in Tulsa, where he works at a local youth shelter. He is also a former intern at Oklahoma Policy Institute.