Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on their progressive push in deep-red states

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic candidate for Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent time campaigning last week in a state many progressives wouldn't consider a campaign priority: Kansas

CBS News' "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan sat down with Vermont's Sanders, a well-known face in Democratic politics, and New York's  casio-Cortez, a rising star in the party after she defeated incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, as they stumped in the Sunflower State.

Brennan asked why they would spend time campaigning for candidates in a red state like Kansas that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. 

"Well, Margaret, I happen to believe, passionately, that there really is not a blue-state, red-state tradition in this country. I think there's a lot of mythology attached to that," Sanders said. 

"People, they believe that healthcare is a right," he continued. "People believe we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage. People do not think, as Trump does, that we should give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the top 1 percent, but in fact we have got to demand that the rich start paying their fair share of taxes. Whether you're in Kansas or the Bronx or in Vermont, we have common interests and common aspirations and we have got to fight for an America that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent."

Ocasio-Cortez, who ran a campaign on a platform that included Medicare for all and free college tuition, said a populist-style approach "absolutely" brings out new voters. 

"In fact, we start -- we found this here in New York, back home. We expanded the electorate 68 percent over the last off-year midterm primary," she said. "So for us, this is about inspiring people to the polls, giving them something to vote for, creating hope for this nation, and knowing that so long as there are working class Americans who believe in a prosperous and just future we will have hope, no matter how red the district."

In Ocasio-Cortez' case, Crowley attributed her win to two factors -- what he described as the "year of the woman" and the timing of the primary race. Asked if she agrees with that assessment, Ocasio-Cortez emphasized that it was her platform, and the organizing work her campaign did, that paved the way to victory. 

"Well, I think that the factors that ultimately created our win was the fact that we had bold commitments and I campaigned on hard commitments of Medicare for all, tuition free public college, ensuring a Green New Deal for our future," she said. 

Pressed on whether she rejects the idea that her gender was a major factor in her victory, Ocasio-Cortez pointed to how a male-dominated Congress can create "blind spots in our legislation" on critical issues.

"In this moment, there's a confluence of factors that makes this moment inspiring. Right now more women than ever are running for office and I do think that women want representation in Congress, absolutely," she said. "Congress right now is 80 percent male. And that creates blind spots in our legislation. It means we don't have family leave, we don't have paid maternal and parental leave. It means that we don't get the equal pay that we want. So I think those issues certainly were important."

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.