February 27th, 2008
04:55 PM ET
10 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. John, VA

    Is this purely race...I'll vote for McCain if Hillary doesn't win. This is the only option left.

    February 27, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  2. Ilse

    Figures. Birds of a feather. So much for loyalty. Go ahead , join the movement. Is Lewis going to switch back if Hillary wins the nomination?

    February 27, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  3. Hashi

    Good decision Lewis. Obama for President. A change we believe in!

    February 27, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  4. Raum

    "Rats are jumping ship" is what the Clinton supporters are saying. I think he opened his eyes.

    Don't forget alot of these people were backing Clinton before they even got a chance to see what Obama was capable of.

    February 27, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  5. Jacob

    Well said Wayne

    February 27, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  6. AnonymousII

    Hillary lost a lot of support when she shook her finger and said ,
    'Shame on Your Barrack Obama." Who does she is shaking her finger at a grown man and scolding him like he is a little boy!

    Debate the issues and present your plans and solutions, but do not have the audacity to shake a finger. Your own campaign released the picture ofBrrack in native dress trying to use the fear factor.

    If Hillary gets the Florida and Michigan delegates seated and gets all their votes and some how gets the nomination, it will only prove how corrupt the Clintons are and how they will do anything to win. It will also divide the democratic party. There may even be a walk out at the convention of Obama supporters Obama 08 is the will of the people. I hope the voters in Ohio and Texas join all the others who have supported Obama and make the decision before the convention.

    February 27, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  7. Peg from Ohio

    He saw the debate in Ohio.

    February 27, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  8. Jen

    Great, but it's sad that he's only switching because of his constituency. Georgians did their homework early on and voted for Obama based on his policies, integrity and message. As an Obama supporter I think it's great that we've got his superdelegate vote but honestly – we didn't need it. It seems like he's just putting himself in a favorable position because he sees how much support Obama has throughout the country. I hope he doesn't think there's anything political to gain from this. If he believed in the Clintons so much he should stick by them.

    February 27, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  9. Anonymous


    February 27, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  10. Perakletos

    It is so nice to see the congressmen listening to the people. He can over look the 3 to 1 margin Obama had over Clinton with the voters of his district.

    February 27, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  11. Jesus

    What is it going to take for people to relize who is the most experience person to run our county? When you see how this superdelgates are changeing their minds because of special interests reminds me what great loosers they are. Edward Kennedy, a looser! who was not Robert Kennedy, nor J.F. Kennedy. Robert was a winner, J.F. Kennedy was a winner, Edward Kennedy a looser, Karry was another looser. C. Dudd another looser. A lot of this delgates are only indorseing special interests. Richardson is questionable, I just hope he doe's not turn against Hillary like Louis just did, lets see who wins the nonmenation and you see he'll votes for the winner. Seeking a high position level in Washinton. Kerry a flip up, (a looser) R. Kennedy a cry baby, (a looser) an now Mr. Louis, (a back staber, not a man of his word. ) And I could go on and on. I'm really sorry to see Hillary being tore up with far left radecals (loosers). Just because she is a female with a lot of experience. Obama with no experience, running the world is going to be a nightmare. with the media pushing for Obama to win, and making Hillary look bad, and not covering enough about Obama I can see the world go to hell, I would like to see the media tell the truth about Obama and all great experience, etc.. People are just not getting the truth in the media, people just don't know who this man really is, other then what they the media wants you to know. If you are smart, you would be voting for Hillary with some experience that could really make a change, and give american people real hope, and a really a vision, what america could be again after a Bush, Etc, bla, b,la, bla
    Go Hillary! Go!

    February 27, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  12. Michael Osborne

    Shame on you Mr. Lewis.

    With friends like you, one certainly does not need enemies.

    Michael Osborne
    Atlanta, GA

    February 27, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  13. Terry For Texas

    Great another shot fired over the bow of the SS Minnow operated by Clinton. God Speed Obama

    February 27, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  14. Sukie

    What kind of low lifes would "switch" AFTER they have made a promise–which is what I consider an endorsement.

    Really cheap move, buddy. I don't care what color you are!!!!!!!!!

    I am sticking by Hillary, no one has shown me anything new about either her or Obama since this battle began.

    Even if Obama "wins" the Dem nomination, I will still write in Clinton on Oregon's May primary ballot.

    And in November.


    BTW, Obama, your wife is NOT Jackie Kennedy! And never will be!

    February 27, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  15. Drew

    Excuse me, but to those of you who are bemoaning the switch: Isn't that EXACTLY what Sen. Clinton's camp was trying to do? Target Super Delegates and try to get them to switch to her camp? Seems like what's good for one side works both ways. If a Super Delegate chooses to switch FROM Sen. Clinton's clutches, it's just another day in the world of Democratic Politics.

    Don't criticize Sen. Obama's side for getting more delegates. That IS what they are trying to do after all.

    February 27, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Brad RI

    Personally, I think that "doing his job" would be to listen to the voice of America, or at the very least his constituants. When the will of the people shows that they want something, who are the superdels to say otherwise?

    February 27, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  17. Asians for Hillary

    This is getting ridiculous. Then, Kerry and Kennedy should also follow the will of their constituents and back Hillary. Why don't they do so? I can foresee the downfall of democratic party if the wave of Obama goes on. This man is going to bring disaster to the world. He totally stinks. I'm sick and tired of seeing his face.

    February 27, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  18. Lynn in IA

    I have soooo many of these stories and posts and am soooo sick of the pettiness going on all boards. Look, our best hope is to support the Democratic ticket in November NO MATTER who is on it. Stop with the Hillary and Obama hate remarks...PLEASE! Sometimes I wonder who some of the people posting here are for...McCain??? What ever happened to "United we stand, divided we fall"? This race is not over, the people have not chosen yet, but when it is over, support needs to go to the winner. What do we have here sore losers or people who want to put an end to the Bush-like tyranny?? When he got that second term I just had the biggest feeling of dread come over me. Look at the last 7 years, do we need that to continue as Bush says it will or do we stay together to make sure the GOP stays out?! This bickering is toxic. I will support the winner between Hillary and Barack, no matter what! I want my son home, not in Iraq putting his life on the line for sake of George W. Bush. PLEASE help keep him and all our soldiers safe and bring them home! I'm begging all of you to vote for them!

    February 27, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  19. Kathy

    Lewis switches from Clinton to Obama. 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. Why he switching, he want to get benefit from Obama, after Obama enter the white house.

    Lewis without any his view, only look the wind direction. Ridiculous!!!!

    February 27, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  20. Amy, Kazoo

    I don't think it's any secret here that I'm a Clinton supporter. That said, it is my opinion that if she doesn't make significant gains (ie a single win at least) on March 4th, she needs to do the right thing and step down from the race so we can rally behind one candidate. The republicans are waiting for our single candidate like a pack of wolves, just waiting to tear them apart. They've already begun. So it's in our best interest to get behind one candidate. Sure we all have PREFERENCES. But it's been said by the candidates themselves and the pundits that the two are so similar it's hard to find differences at times aside from personality. I love what Hillary has done for the women of this country. I love that she's a fighter. But at one point or another, you have to start choosing your battles wisely. Should she fail on March 4th, I hope she can muster up the courage to do the right thing and I hope that ALL democratic supporters can come together as one unit.

    February 27, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  21. Morgan

    Jack C. just totally reversed the facts from the debate. Obama condemned LFs remarks but would not reject his support until Hillary Clinton said she rejected similar support. Did he even watch it? CNN just proved they are for Obama by trying to look like they were investigating Obama but then reversing the facts in his favor. I challenge CNN to apologize to its viewers and run the whole clip from the debate about rejecting support from Louis F. AND Jack C. and the other team members to admit they either didn't watch the debate or purposefully misrepresented the facts!

    February 27, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  22. Mark

    Veronica – your irresponsible post suggests that Lewis switched to Obama because he was black. Maybe you should read the article. He switched to match the desires of his constituents, which many argue is the proper role for a superdelegate.

    If he was supporting Obama just because he's black, he wouldn't have supported Hillary in October.

    Please don't be stupid and ignorant and draw poor analogies. We can do better.

    February 27, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  23. Steve

    didn't he actually switch quite some time ago?

    February 27, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  24. ruby

    Hillary was awesome at the debate last night, she was the smartest person in the room ... and it shows! Hillary rules!

    February 27, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  25. Alice Courtney

    Tim Russet, You should be ashamed of yourself. Your bias supprised me. I thought that you had more integrity. This is the first electon in the history of the US that is going to be decided by the Media. Hillary doesn't have a chance even though she is the most qualified. 24 hour news stations have nothing to report so they interview each other and make the news themselves. You bet her up then got mad when she fought back. Shame on you all !!!!

    February 27, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19