Some readers probably had a double take after seeing the headlines showing African-American voters came out in strong numbers to help a White Republican win a Mississippi primary runoff.

But there is truth behind the headlines: Black Mississippians who might otherwise vote Democratic helped swing a primary vote toward six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran by casting ballots in the state’s GOP primary.

African-American voters exercised voter savvy and a pragmatic strategy to help deliver a blow to the tea party movement on Tuesday by taking advantage of Mississippi’s open primary law to support Cochran. Cochran, an establishment conservative with more than 40 years congressional experience, narrowly defeated a challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, thanks largely to the African-American vote.

The vote is seen as having historic significance.

“For the first time since President Richard M. Nixon’s divisive ‘Southern Strategy’ that sent Whites to the Republican Party and Blacks to the Democrats, [African-American] voters have come out in force for a Republican in the Deep South,” reported the New York Times.

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