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. akaDoug

    So Hillary, should Barack "denounce and reject" Rep. Lewis' support too?

    February 27, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Greg

    Hillary cannot run a campain let alone the country. President Obama, sounds great, a President that can unite the country and bring hope to a troubled world. The right person at the right time to lead, just give a prayer of thanks to the almighty, God bless America.

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

    that comment I just send it was the firt time why you'll took it off because it favors Mrs. hillary Clintong

    February 27, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  4. Drea

    I support Hillary. Period. I've hated the comments from Obama supporters who manage to offend me just because I voted for her. The comments are just rude and I'm so turned off by his supporters that I will not vote for him when he becomes the nominee – even if she supports/endorses him. I won't.

    February 27, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  5. ANA

    Hillary 2008!!! She will prevail!

    February 27, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. Ingrid

    It's pretty sad when people show that they really don't have any convictions. You don't join a campaign because of popularity, you join it because of values and principles you hold dear. In this case Rep. Lewis is simply saying that he is more interested in popularity contests. Way to show your political values Sir.

    February 27, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  7. Saint13

    If the guy says "I have to represent my constituents and respect their choice", he has no backbone or convictions.

    If he votes and/or chooses against the will of his constituents, then he is a poor representative who doesn't care about the people.

    Politicians aren't the only ones who change their stand depending upon which way works better for them.

    February 27, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  8. Gary

    Another sticken trader follwing the leader.What comes around goes around. You Obama voters might get surprised.It wont be anything want.

    February 27, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. Chris From California

    If John Lewis is a "friend" of the Clintons, then who needs enemies? What a low thing to do to a "friend." I believe this is about race for Mr. Lewis and that this transcends all to him. I guess, even though I, as a White woman, and others like me, including the Clintons who have worked to advance Civil Rights all their lives – even in the face of personal criticisms of them, have rid our lives of racism, I guess the same cannot be said for many in the Black community.

    February 27, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  10. tmp_mpls

    If a latino candidate ran for office all the latino vote would go to that candidate. The race is definitly playing a role here.

    February 27, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  11. BobW Rochester, NY

    The racial overtones of some of the Hillary supporters are at best undignified and at worst ignorant and ugly. Please people; try to maintain some semblance of rational dignity. The really stupid responses are obviously uneducated and crude conservatives. If you are Democrat, try hold your disagreement above the knuckle-dragging level in your comments.

    February 27, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  12. Brian

    Proud Californian should change their name to Bitter Californian

    February 27, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. Shawn Smith, Kansas City, MO

    this is betrayal. i hope they realize that when Obama screws up in office, much like the inexperienced JFK did in many areas, they are going to be looking to the Clinton's for advise... and I hope she gives them all the cold shoulder and says, "We told you so...."

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

    This just goes to show that politics is corrupt everywhere. The people of the world sway whatever way the wind blows. People are WEAK!!

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

    WAYNE, Have you taken into account all of the people who will switch to McCain if Obama is the nom?? Add it up. You may have more dems voting, but they may just be voting the other party. Love independents who won't be dictated to. Why is everyone saying that Clinton should give it up for the sake of the party. Did anyone say that to Obama when he was a lot more behind than she is. It's too close to call, sorry easily lead.

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

    It sure looks like that ugly R word is creeping into this situation. Maybe some of the Hillary folks were never real democrats in the first place. Maybe they do not believe in the ideals of the party. Maybe they think that McCain has the "experience" that Barack can never have....being white in America. What a shame. Maybe they ought to vote for McCain. Good riddance I say. Obama will still win in November because most fair minded folks realize that Barack Obama is the most qualified person to lead this country out of the old political games and divisions.

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

    Okay people his congressional district voted overwhelmingly for Obama and if they voted for Hillary then I would expect the same. What if your area voted for Hillary would you want the delegate to vote against the people or would you want them to represent the people? Leave the race out of it people.

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

    Hillary Clinton is so irate blasting Barack Obama. If she cannot remain calm in the midst of an election campaign, she cannnot govern America’s everyday crisis much less should we have a catastrophe!

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

    Since the skies have opened,as Hillary mocks, many will and have CHANGED their minds, too.

    February 27, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. Michael "C" in Lorton, Virginia

    Hillary has allowed her "anger" to conquer her and when she speaks when she is angry, she gives the best speech she will forever regret. The superdelegates will distant themselves from her one by one......and that is already started What began in anger for her will end in her shame.

    February 27, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. Ryan Asalone

    By the sounds of it, he may not be voting for whoever is winning, he may just be voting for the candidate who won by the votes of his people. If he votes against his people for a candidate, his chances of re-election is diminished.

    February 27, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. MommyInTheRUG

    who cares???Hillary has already done so much damage to herself....and to Obamas character....I was going to vote for Obama...if he got the nomination...now that Hillary has pointed out all of his character flaws that i did not see....I will vote for McCain

    February 27, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  23. Rationale

    Proud californian I wish you could be a proud democrat!!! A true democrat will never vote for McCain, If you won't vote for either obama or Hillary in November that means you've never supported either one. Take off the cover, you 're just a republican!!!

    February 27, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  24. Joy

    John Lewis is not a friend, a traitor maybe, well, he is black, what's new! Hillary is the best of all the candidates. People are just blind, deaf and still blindddddddddddddd.

    February 27, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. RSP

    Does this mean all the prominent women politicians in the country will be loyal to their gender and switch from the "faith-based" candidate to Hillary?

    No?

    Oh, that's right. African-Americans support a black candidate, but women don't support other women. Shame on you women who don't support one of your own. Obviously black people have their priorities straight.

    February 27, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
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