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
Good to hear. I think you should vote for someone not because they are your friend but because you think that they will be the best candidate to represent this country in the future. We need a change in our government and Obama is the way to bring about that change. I have lots of friends but I wouldn't vote for them to be president because some of them are just stupid. I think the duty to your country is greater than a duty to your friendship. Good job Lewis. Glad you are backing the right candidate. :)
What a wimp. He didn't even have the guts to call Clinton.
Come One! Come All! You have seen the error of your ways and have chosen wisely. You are forgiven. Welcome to the movement.
Congrats, to Obama he is the man to lead our country.
This says more about John Lewis's wishy washy hypocrisy than anything else. I can't believe how much race is an issue in this campaign. I'm ashamed of America.
Can you say turncoat?
Way to stick to your guys, Rep. Lewis. Another flip-flopper.
Wow. A politician who waffles? I've never seen that before...
Is it just me, or does this have the distinct ring of another brick tumbling down from Hillary's "firewall" of Ohio and Texas?
Down goes Fraiser, Down goes Fra..Clinton..
No Suprise. BUT, If that's they way Georgia voted, I understand. Now time for Kerry and Keneddy to join Hillary!!! Their state pick Hillary right??
I always start with I am an Obama supporter but to Lewis" whatever". As someone stated, he wouldn't have endorsed Obama if he wan't leading in polls. Politicians only think of themselves. I mean look at Edwards. He's holding out hoping to get a VP or some other role. Politics! Uhg!
BIG SHOCK. I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED HIM TO WAIT UNTIL SHE HAD TOTALLY NO CHANCE TO WIN . JUST GOES TO SHOW THAT NO ONE IS LOYAL. STAY IN HILLARY TILL PA. PLEASE !!!!!!
The guy has to be re-elected in Georgia and besides he offered support for Hillary before the race. Now that he sees the Obama train pulling away from the station he needs a ride.
ALL ABOARD..............next stop...................1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!
This is like a wave now. Another Senator today – who also is a super delegate – also has endorsed Obama. This support is going to continue to grow each day. Hillary lovers need to get on the right side and stop hating on Obama who is quite obviously the nominee, as March 4 will surely prove.
Richardson is going to endorse Obama tomorrow.
I am an ardent Obama supporter and Congressman Lewis can keep his vote. Obama will win with or without his support. If nothing, I have lost any little respect I had for him. Talk about a fair weather friend!!
Everyone on the blogs/comments need to stay respectful to all the candidates and senators and representatives and to each other.
More than likely Senator Obama will be our next President of the UNITED States of America.
It is rather sad story.
You relay on your friends, but in the moment you need them the most they switch…
Yeah, I question his motives, but welcome aboard nevertheless.
Hope we get more of these in the next week. Watching Hillary flop around like an animal in a trap is just painful...
Think for yourselves people.
I am an Obama supporter. Shame on you Lewis. You have to be stable. Don't run away from Hillary because things are not looking good for her. What are friends for. That is ridiculous.
Congress man Lewis made the right decision supporting Mr. Obama, voting for Hillary could have cost him to lose respect and re election in his constituence.
Isn't it interesting that Obama has never said anything about race but people bring it up anyway.
Isn't it interesting how Clinton had the minority vote before she belittled MLK for LBJ. And no one links that to her poor showing now?
Isn't it interesting that Clinton always talks about how being a woman president is her change and no one talks about it.
Can you say "flip-flop"? Lets go with the favorites! And we're supposed to take this mans word? What a train hopper, glad he doesn't represent me.
Karen. Please stop writing such nonsense. No-one admires people like you. Just crawl back under the rock you slithered out from. Thanks.