February 27th, 2008
04:55 PM ET
7 years ago

Lewis switches from Clinton to Obama

 Rep. John Lewis is now backing Obama.
Rep. John Lewis is now backing Obama.

ATLANTA (CNN) - Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who backed Hillary Clinton in his state's Democratic presidential primary, announced Wednesday that he is switching his support to Barack Obama to reflect the will of his constituents.

"Something is happening in America," the 11-term congressman, a bloodied veteran of the civil rights movement, said in a statement issued by his office.

"There is a movement, there is a spirit, there is an enthusiasm in the hearts and minds of the American people that I have not seen in a long time, since the candidacy of Robert Kennedy."

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Obama called Lewis "an American hero."

"I am deeply honored to have his support," he added.

Lewis endorsed Clinton, the senator from New York and former first lady, in October. But his central Atlanta district went strongly for Obama, the senator from Illinois, in Georgia's Feb. 5 primary - forcing what he called "a difficult decision" for him.

"As a U.S. representative, it is my role not to try to subdue or suppress the will of the people, but to help it prosper and grow," he said.

Lewis is a member of the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives and a Democratic "superdelegate," one of the elected officials and party leaders who will not be bound by the results of primary elections or caucuses when they vote on the party's presidential nominee at its August convention in Denver. He is also a longtime friend of Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and said he had "a deep and abiding love" for both.

But he added, "I think the candidacy of Sen. Obama represents the beginning of a new movement in American political history that began in the hearts and minds of the people of this nation. And I want to be on the side of the people, on the side of the spirit of history."

Lewis' announcement comes less than a week before next Tuesday's Democratic primaries in Texas and Ohio, which Clinton is banking on to break the Illinois senator's 11-contest winning streak in the Democratic race. The two held a heated debate in Cleveland on Tuesday.

Clinton did not answer reporters' questions about Lewis' reversal at a Wednesday afternoon campaign stop in Zanesville, Ohio. But campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway told CNN that the candidate "respects Congressman Lewis enormously, and she respects his decision."

Lewis declined further comment to reporters as he left the House floor Wednesday, telling them, "I'll let the statement speak for itself."

In announcing his endorsement of Clinton in October, Lewis called her the Democratic candidate "best-prepared to lead this country at a time when we are in desperate need of strong leadership." But despite the support of Lewis and other leading African-American politicians, Obama beat Clinton by better than 2-to-1 in Georgia's primary, with overwhelming support from black voters.

Lewis' fellow Georgian, Rep. David Scott, has told news outlets he would support Obama in Denver rather than go against the will of voters in his suburban Atlanta district.

The Lewis endorsement follows Tuesday's endorsement of the Illinois senator by former Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd, who called for the party to unite "behind a candidacy that expresses the aspirations, the hopes, the ambitions of millions and millions of Americans."

Dodd warned that Democrats are in danger of damaging their fortunes in November with a divisive campaign, but said he is not suggesting Clinton should drop out of the race. The Connecticut senator dropped his presidential bid after the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3.

Obama currently leads Clinton in the number of convention delegates won in the Democratic contests to date, 1,184 to 1,031, according to the latest CNN estimates. Clinton has the support of more superdelegates, however, leading Obama 237-181, according to CNN's count.

– CNN's Sasha Johnson, Candy Crowley, and Alex Mooney contributed to this report

soundoff (458 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    for the idiots that keep saying this is a race thing.... HE WINS WHITES TOO ....... and to ask women to support Clinton because of gender i just plain dumb... grow up.... and some will vote for McCain to spite Obama.... i have to be kiddin.... then you'll be a two time loser

    February 27, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. Great American Sell-out

    Disgusting sell-out!

    February 27, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  3. Mike

    This is a PLOY by the Clinton's. What they are trying to do is show that all the BLACK political leaders are switching so that others will support her!!

    DON'T FALL FOR THIS PLOY!! WE DON'T NEED FLIP-FLOPPERS!!

    February 27, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  4. pbs

    I am so happy that he did a "switch-out". The civil rights movement and the struggle should be part of the foundation that his vote rests on. This is what is was all about whether any one admits it or not.
    I am VERY pleased with his decsion along with the state of GA.

    February 27, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  5. Patricia

    Karen you really need to read LaLa's post and get over it

    February 27, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  6. helen

    What an opportunitist. Shame on you.

    February 27, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. Missouri

    Let support the RIGHT THING and get together to build a wonderful state where evry one will be who HE IS.
    DEMOGRATS 08!!!!!!!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  8. logical

    I just wanted to say that i really respect REP. STEPHANIE TUBBS. I heard her interview after the debate last night. Chris Matthews and andrea mitchell were asking her, more like pushing her to change sides and she said I am with Hillary since day one and will always be there to support her. In campaign there's up and down and she (Hillary) is a little down right now and needs my support and I will always be there to support her and SHE WILL BOUNCE BACK UP! That's what loyalty is all about, so I would urge people to stop jumping ship and stay put. I think she is a great lady. She's got integrity and surely respect from people like us. She is not looking for her own interests. Go Hillary '08!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  9. Paul Lennon

    Before anyone votes Obama, people need to tune into black radio in this country and hear what the on air talk show hosts are saying.

    How come nobody is talking about this?

    As a Clinton supporter, I don't like what I'm hearing.

    This is not the way to support a candidate.

    February 27, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  10. B.K.Armstrong

    Hillary supporters like Proud Californian are a disgrace to the Democratic party. You would vote for McCain if she is not the nominee? That kind of attitude is the reason the MAJORITY of the party is supporting Sen.Obama.You are the reason our party won't win in NOV. because of your arrogant attitude.You along with your candidate feels she deserves the nomination because her last name is Clinton.You are sooooo selfish you would rather see another Republican in office than a Democrat! If Obama wasn't the nominee I would still vote for Sen.Clinton. But NOOOOOOOO not you!! Go play in traffic you traitor!!!!!!!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  11. Yasir

    Great decision by a respected GA rep. It's becoming more obvious to all of us including the superdelegats as who the winner of this delegation is. thank's God..

    I hope the rest of superdelegates are now encouraged to come forward and support our way out of th emess we in ..."Obama 08"

    Yasir

    February 27, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. Michael

    And the Obama braiin trust grows and grows.

    February 27, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. You are lyine

    Anyone who says they won't vote for Obama if he wins, is lying. They will. However there is a huge group that will not ever vote for Hillary and the super delegates know it, so does everyone else, except for the 5 HRC supporters that keep submitting comments on CNN blogs as different names. You must be the only people in the campaign that knows how to "blog". So this guys endorsement is a flip flop, but that's what happens when you send Bill out to twist all their arms before the primaries even start, they have no choice but to look bad.

    February 27, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. dimitri

    wherever the wind blows.Typical politician!!

    February 27, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. Let's Go Dems

    Obama/Clinton 08' & 12'

    Clinton/Edwards 16' & 20'

    It's time to focus on McCain now!!! He's going to be A LOT tougher than people think!!! Either Hillary or Obama will have a HARD fight on their hands going against McCain.

    February 27, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  16. Wayne, Greenville TX

    An Open Letter to All Hillary Supporters:

    If Barack Obama does end up as our nominee, PLEASE don't vote for McCain – you'll be playing into the hands of those who want to continue ruining our country. And the same goes for us Obama supporters. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination deserves the full support of ALL Democrats.

    Thank you.

    Wayne, Greenville, TX
    (A Life-Long Democrat
    who originally supported John Edwards
    and now support Barack Obama)

    February 27, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  17. Steve MI

    Ive been reading a lot of these blogs and see comments such as "if hillary doesnt get the nom. im voting for mccain." In reality, I think either candidate would beat Mccain. I support Obama 100%, and i really truly believe that an Obama/Hillary or even a Hillary/Obama campaign would blow the GOP out of the water in November. We would be too strong for the GOP to handle if we had both of these candidates representing us in either order. Anyone else agree or disagree? Just a thought...

    February 27, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  18. Maggie

    Rep. John Lewis should just shup up and stayed home, he is divisive politician

    February 27, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  19. Gobama

    Time fore ALL Democrats to RALLY BEHIND THE NOMINEE! lol

    If the Clintons want to do a Arkansas Huckabee (they are ALL from Arkansas) then let them alone. lol

    Next tiny obstacle, John McCain, then the nation can breath a sigh of relief and begin the healing process.

    February 27, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  20. Mr. C.

    For the people who made comment about him switching to OBAMA because he's Black, You guys have to be the most narrow minded kind of human beings on earth. What about the WHITE superdelegates switching to him or endorsing him... what is the reason this time? Some people are just mentally retarded when it comes to their thoughts. Always want to bring up the race issue.

    February 27, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. case

    Karen,

    Wake up!!! Obama is not a Muslim, he is a member of the United Church of Christ. Even when he lived in a Muslim nation when he was a child he was not raised Muslim. And so the hell what if he was.

    February 27, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  22. Nick

    Wow – that one was easy to call. Especially after Jesse Jackson basically told him to get on the Obama train or end up losing his job to a younger candidate. Even though Obama has decried racism being a main factor in this election, it is alive and well, and living alongside sexism.
    Obama is the divider here – not Clinton. And if he thinks that his election will end racial tension, he is really living in a fantasy world.

    February 27, 2008 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  23. Shawn Melvin

    Its so funny that we forget When Bush gave his State of the Union Address at the end of 06 the news reporters had Hillary all over the news and they talked her up as being the number one choice for the Presidency in 08...How funny how time flies and this guy has come out of the wood works to put together a wonderful push for the presidency...You have to respect it can't deny it he is for real and Americans have to be ready for it ...I think the guy is great ..win or lose he's made history...And the world is watching, americans will have a chance to get the respect back and began to re-sell the dream again..Mcain wins the rest of the world will go her we go again... Hillary wins they will say another Clinton... Obama wins the world will be in BLISS OVER AMERICA FOR WHILE......MARK MY WORD ON THAT..Hillary is great as well...

    February 27, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  24. Dee

    If this is the superdelegates only vote than they should vote anyway they want, but if the superdelegates get a personal vote and a convention vote, than the convention vote should be based on the idealogy of the superdelegates purpose. Also, I feel that a lot of political figures declared whom they were voting for before the campaigning began, but like the voters....once the people began listening to Obama's message, views and seen how he has inspired millions of people to get involved and encourages them to have a voice then just like the people, the politicians are begining to rethink their initial decision.

    February 27, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  25. George

    Too much pressure.....Only Obama signs in the 5th District of Georgia.!!!

    GO B!

    February 27, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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