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. cjl

    The rats are jumping from the sinking ship.

    Politicians are all alike – they have no backbone – they will bend with the wind.

    February 27, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. Corey, Maryland

    And so the beginning of the end for Hillary begins!!! I'm not complaining though. Im also glad that Rep. John Lewis was able to see the light, and cross over from the dark side of the democratic party!!!

    Obama Richardson 08!!!!!!

    February 27, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. The Comet 21

    It is pretty hard to go against the voice of the people. It is respectable that he could put his personal relationship with the Clintons to the side, and let his political actions do the talking.

    He knows that he has to be re-elected and if he does not listen to his constituents now, why would they believe he will later.

    February 27, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. Javer - New Jersey

    Can we now say that the race is all but over for Clinton? OBAMA '08

    February 27, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. Nelson

    As Nelson would say, "HAW HAW!"

    February 27, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. Bouba NY

    This is the right thing...because one vote shouldn't be over another vote. We are one nation and we should live upon our principles.
    The democratic nominee should't be picked by superdelagates, but by the voice of the American people.....
    I will not be mad if Ted Kennedy will give back his vote to Hillary as she won his sate and won it with a huge margin.....
    We got to be fair and follow the law...and the rules

    February 27, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. Becky in Indiana

    Wise choice. I'll be voting for Obama as well.

    February 27, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. viorioieca musca

    Shame on you Lewis

    February 27, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    I keep hearing about all of this"change" that Barack is going to bring but I have yet to hear the media ask him exactly how he plans to do it. He has stated that he is going to change the way politics are done in Washington but i have yet to hear him tell us how. Remember, he has been functioning in those politics for awhile. Somebody needs to start asking him specifically how he plans to bring change. A great orator he is, but I don't feel that he can be compared to a John Kennedy.

    February 27, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. Mary Jane

    Seriously, and people are so delusional that they don't think this is about race?

    February 27, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Sen. Lewis had no choice, it's about damage control of the democrat party to stop the divisiveness. I'm sure the Clintons understand this and they too will continue to support the party regardless of what the nominee outcome may be. I don't think Sen. Lewis endorsement is to be taken as anything negative towards Hillary.

    February 27, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. female voter

    The media was so biased. Very unfair!!! We should send emails to CNN, NBC... It is a shame for a civil society. This society still cannot accept a female president. I am not democratic. But in general I prefer demoncratic policies over republic's in the past. The reason that I support for Hillary is that she is the person who will make this country in order. She has that ability. She has my trust. She is a very strong and determined person. She really wants to make this country better. Otherwise she has no reasons to run for president. She had experience in white house already. I prefer that Hillary became the president and Obama vice president. That would give Obama a chance to gain experience. He then ran for president later. that is the best for demoncratic party and for the US. Once he has the experience, I believe he would be a great president to make things working. It is easier for him to condemn everything now, because he was not got the chance of being involved in any of these. But if he was there, he would be the same, no difference than any other politicans. Listen to his answer to the critism about deliberatly distributing false info about Hillary's health plan. He said that was the way people ran for campiagn. That means he would use the same tricks although he knew it was not right.

    But if Obama is the nominee, I would definitely vote for Mcgain. It is not because I was mad that Hillary lose. We cannot cast our vote based on the anger. We have to base our believe on the fact who will be the best person for this country. It is because I have no trust at Obama at this time. I agree "we can't gamble my future with a 2-year-old rookie". Mcgain would be a better candidate than Obama. Although Bush failed in many ways, it does not mean that Mcgain will fail again. I have no doubt that Mcgain will run this country differently from Bush.

    February 27, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. rob10001

    Senator Clinton needs to back up her statement of respect for Congressman Lewis' decision to back Senator Obama by dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination today.

    February 27, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Richard

    Lewis is a traitor. Obama is not truthful. The only thing Obama has going for him is his arrogant mouth. Like he is going to wave a magic wand and change everything in Washington over night. Yah Right! Wake UP America!

    February 27, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Heather

    Its about time. What was he waiting for. Maybe he was looking forward to reelection here in the ATL.

    I'm glad to say that I was for OBAMA from 'day one'. LOL. We, the people, have our eyes on you superdelegates.

    February 27, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  16. pbj

    Say goodnight, Hillary. Now if only the good people of New York would boot her out of office and Hillary and her sleazeball husband can slink off back to Arkansas - and we'll see whether the Emir of Dubai or Kazakistani despots still want to shower their millions on the Clintons.

    February 27, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  17. mike G

    Great decision. Support for truth, hope and change is respectable.

    February 27, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. Todd C.

    BREAKING NEWS: John McCain is now endorsing Obama too! But he's keeping it a secret.

    February 27, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |

    lewis switches from clinton to obama.Well i think it is the right thing to do.yes we do not need a big moma ,america need President Barack Obama.

    February 27, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. Xavier, Washington, DC

    I guess he was worried about losing his House seat. Well, it doesn't matter how he came to the right team, so long as he finally did come over to the right team.

    February 27, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. They all stick together.......

    Shameful! He must have forgotten all the President Clinton and Senator Clinton have done and will most likely continue to do for his district and his race.

    Short memory I guess they have!

    February 27, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. The Comet 21

    We will see if Rep. Shiela Jackson-Lee listens to her constituents, and does the same here in Houston. She is also a Super Delegate.

    February 27, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  23. Kevin in OK

    This is supposed to be a big surprise? An African-American switching their support from the BEST candidate, Hillary Clinton, to Barack Obama, someone who is also African-American? Ha! SHOCKING.

    The BIG surprise will be when all of these Barack Obama supporters wake up and realize they are supporting someone who is deceiving millions of people.

    February 27, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  24. Dozirulf

    And the hits just keep oooon comin'...

    Clinton is toast.

    February 27, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |

    Got Obama.

    February 27, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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