February 27th, 2008
04:55 PM ET
6 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. Deebo

    There's nothing wrong with switching sides.
    Obama is the way to go!
    This world is going to change for the better, only because Obama is providing the momentum for that change.
    Join the Movement
    Obama'08

    February 27, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  2. ddt

    Lewis you have humiliated yourself. How in hell could you do that to yourself " cival rights leader" I doubt it. You have brought race again into this compaingn. Everybody now knows that if he was not black you wouldn't left people who have been your friends for ever, I mean the clintons. All I can say, shame on you, you made a fool of yourself you should have waited until the convention to give support to anyone now you have showed your true colors you have been lying to the Clintons that you are a friend but you are not. They know now

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

    Wow, do the Clinton supporters on this board have anger built up in them or what? No wonder they supported Senator Clinton who has shown she is clearly emotionally unstable in this campain. They do say that many people support canidates based on their values and personal identity, so I guess I shouldn't be suprised at the emotionally unstable Clinton supporters crazy statements. Just calm down and take your medication, hopefully you'll come around too just as Lewis and many other of the early pledged supporter will soon follow suit. Obama is not a bad guy, it's just the Clinton hallucinational effects blocking your judgement and hopefully it will clear up soon so we can all just get along.

    February 27, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  4. Atl Republican

    How in the world can you say this is a great endorsement? How?? As one commenter puts it... It's very simple, blacks will follow blacks regardless of what America needs. We have sen the proof, just look at all the blacks that have come out of the woodwork to endorse Obama. And we think this helps? Lewis is a great endorsement, who is the idiot that wrote that?

    February 27, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Rationale

    You are sick Karen, the first time he was sworn in on the bible this time again he'll do it on the bible as an authentic christian. Please remember we are democrats we cannot be fighting each other; our real opponents are republicans so get ready to support either one of our democrats who gets the nomination!!!! I really appreciate you Karen!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. thingsthatmakeyougo.hmm...

    Wow....Way to jump on the media wave.....Although I'm not suprised...Anyone who chooses to shift loyalty and support is not worth any of our time nor thoughts....talk about commitment?!

    February 27, 2008 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  7. Adam, Los Angeles

    Don't accuse him of being a flake or lacking courage. The root word is "delegate" meaning "representative".

    He bet on his horse too early in the game and the people who he is representing have told him he made the wrong decision. I'm sure the people of Atlanta are thankful that he listens to their voice.

    February 27, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. D.L.

    Man what a bunch of fairweather friends.

    Yes Lewis you are indeed a cad!!

    February 27, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. Jorge

    This is great! and it is just one more thing that shows how the whole country its joining Obama's movement of Change!!!! it is time for Hillary to step down NOW!!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. George

    Americans are waking up to find the truth. We are all sick and tired to see the same arrogant and dishonest players around Washington. We need a change of tactic in the game. That's where Obama comes to people's mind. It's about that time the Clintons and Bush disappear from public faces.

    February 27, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Voting for Clinton is Dumb!!!!!!!!!!!

    Karen you real ignorant !!! I see all the smart ladies are not voting for Hillary.

    February 27, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. John in CA

    Politics as usual...

    February 27, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  13. GET TO THE TRUTH!!!!

    OH !!!Mr Lewis you wouldn't want people to think you're "selling out" now would you....I find this very funny for him to just support Obama with his poll numbers up and all. If you are
    Black and support Hillary you are considered a" sell out" let's just hope we have not "sold out our country over a glorified rock star in a suit!!" because he makes me feel good. And with Mr.Lewis being big on civil rights i want o know how you can support someone who attends a church whose Pastor has said such negative things about Jewish people. Civil Rights are for all not just Black folks and this is coming from a Black person who supports Hillary!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  14. Matt

    I have no problem with Rep. Lewis endorsing Obama, particularly since his constituents in Georgi voted pretty overwhelmingly for him. I do have a problem with people who go back on their word. If he wasn't prepared to stick with Clinton through to the end, he should never have endorsed her in the first place. This now comes off as less of a "soul searching" moment and more a "hop on the bandwagon" one.

    February 27, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. Curtis

    I love the fact that he proudly displays the Human Rights Campaign slogan in front during a press conference!

    February 27, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. A Proud American

    Thanks Democraps! Your making the republcans shine once again.

    February 27, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  17. GSU

    Lewis supported Clinton and Obama still won Georgia. I think someone is just trying to seem relevant.....

    February 27, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. sherrie50

    Mr. John Lewis, where is your integrity? Is that how you treat a friend? I hope your conscience is clear.

    February 27, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  19. Adam, Los Angeles

    Don't accuse him of being a flake or lacking courage. The root word is "delegate" meaning "representative".

    He bet on his horse too early in the game and the people who he is representing have told him he made the wrong decision. I'm sure the people of Atlanta are thankful that he listens to their voice.

    February 27, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  20. SPQR753

    DNA is thicker than water!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  21. Charles

    Did you hear proverb about rats leaving ship? So this is our civil right "leader" who could, at least according to legends stand up to beating and life threats but can't stand political pressure for the candidate he thinks is the best and to whom he feels being in in debt?

    What does he risk? His Congress place? Sorry, but rats remaine rats everywhere.

    February 27, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  22. Sara M

    Let's see if he switches back after Hillary wins on Tuesday...

    February 27, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  23. Amy in Iowa

    So when white men endorse Obama, who has a white mom, should we also say "look at their skin color"? Cmon people. Obama represents all of America. Those insults are getting old.

    February 27, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  24. KYObamican

    I am holding my breath and crossing my fingers for Obama! My normally cynical husband just registered to vote last week because he was inspired by him. I hope to vote for him in the general. Unfortunately, Kentucky is a closed primary.

    February 27, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  25. Billie

    Mr. Obama will not get my vote. His stance frightens me – not his public one, but the one many of us are hearing about. I am an independent, and can choose not to vote, but feel it s right we ALL should be a part of! Please, America – don't make me vote republican!

    February 27, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
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