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. Angie, LA.

    Praotoria, Ft. Myers, FL, race has nothing to do with it silly!!! He made a smart decision. He is following his district wishes. All superdelegates should listen to the voters in their district. No one wants Hillary. She is just too unstable. It is too personal for her. It is about her lagacy not the well being of Americans. Watch how quickly she will forget about being an honory Latino after Texas votes.

    PMS and hot flashes can not run the White house. Just like alcohol has ruined it for the past 8 years. ( You know exactly what I mean)

    February 27, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  2. Herb

    Barack can talk, but can he lead? Start asking him the tuff questions. Such as how are you going to change things. You haven't done a whole lot since he has been in Washington. Talking is one thing. Executing plans is another

    February 27, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. Jayjay

    It's all about race, plain and simple.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. Chris

    Hilary is not doomed. I voted for Barack, and I want him to win, but people need to stop counting their chickens before they are hatched. Obama needs to win Texas and he has to come close in Ohio and PA. Even then, there are plenty of super delegates that are backing Hilary.

    Obama '08, but there is still a long way to go - were not through it yet.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. Ellie Carter

    All –

    Let's get real here. If you are delegate or super delegate and your state supports Obama and Clinton loses Ohio, it would be political suicide to NOT support the nominee.

    That's like going against Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Get real. In politics all is common sense. YOU go with the winner in your party because you are basically on the same team and a team is stronger "together" than apart. This is not a personal contest... it's team against team. Republican vs. Democrats. If the Republicans win we will have the another 8 YEARS OF BUSHMAN MENTALITY YET AGAIN!!

    McCain is a Bush supporter and has supported everything Bush has shoved down his throat. So if you want another Bush Presidency, then go ahead and vote for McCain and see what it gets you!

    How soon we forget on which political coat tail McCain is loyal to. Pleeez even Stevie Wonder could see this joker!

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. Obamacrat

    Hillary, leave gracefully. Don't split the party.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. park more

    Hillary is better than that. She is doing great

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  8. david

    clinton supporters are running like rats on a ship now. after somedays there will be no rats left on Clinoton ship. Obama house will be full of fat rats.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  9. Rick

    Congressman Lewis, a so-called legacy to Dr. King's legacy shows his cowardice and weakness by dropping the ball. If a person can't keep their word and stick by their promise to support you when the chips are down, how reliable will THEY be when things go badly for you?

    Obama is getting "fairweather" media-driven support. I don't know about you but that's weak, shifting "support" that will abandon you when the chips are down.

    Obama supporters are like the shifting sand...whatever the media tells them to do, they do it.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    This is a popularity contest. The country wants Obama, but the country needs Hillary. People are jumping on the bandwagon because it is the "cool" thing to do. The other day a reporter asked a college student why she was voting for Obama, and her reply was because he stood for change and because she believes in him. When the reporter asked her about Obama's views on certain issues, she knew zip zilch, but hey, it's the "cool" thing to do. Sad. I like Obama. He is intelligent and charismatic, but I wonder how much substance there is to him. I agree with one political analyst who called Obama, another Jimmy Carter, a popular guy, but no subsance.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. Charles

    That is why the superdelegate should be elimated from the Democrat's strategy. Change your mind to support the apparent winner, huh Mr. Lewis? Why didn't you wait until your constituents voted in Georgia before you blindly gave your " Super Delegate" vote to the Clinton's? Do you need a calendar of events so you won't look stupid in the future? If I were the Obama camp, I would keep a close eye on you. Maybe you will change you mind after the March 4th primaries. I hope your constituents are noting your behavior Mr. Lewis, I wonder how you voted on Iraq and China's favored nation status. GO OBAMA!

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. Rob

    It amazes me how many politicians are dropping – or distancing themselves – from Hillary Clinton. Happily, I might add. As my Dad would say, "they're falling like leaves."

    Sen. Clinton has no idea how ridiculous she is coming across in the media. She's losing, and she knows it. She tries to be sincere, but she comes across to me like Tilda Swinton's role in Michael Clayton: An attorney with an agenda. A bad one.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  13. rb

    What it says to you about John Lewis? I don't care what race he is.


    Talking about old Washington politics.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  14. Terri

    The poster(s) who say he changed his tune because Obama is now a "winner" – he stated his change was because his constituents are choosing Obama. A good politician votes in favor of the majority of his/her constituents. It's called democracy.

    February 27, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  15. Allen

    Who cares. There is very little difference in these two clowns.

    February 27, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Antparty

    I'm a white guy living in John Lewis' district. I vote for and support John Lewis.

    I voted for Barack. I would be fine if HRC won, but there's a movement going on that gives us all hope. I think the one who could best change this country is without a doubt, Barack Obama. I think Rep. Lewis is now reflecting the views of his constituents. After all, isn't that the job of a REPRESENTATIVE?

    Thanks, Rep. Lewis

    February 27, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  17. Kareem from Hampton VA

    Its funny!! The man said he switched because of his constiuents! Obama carried his district in atlanta! If he was voting for Obama because he was black why wait until this week? Obama's been black the whole time! He's doing what a superdelegate should do! No More, No Less!! I do agree with Lala! How many times do our candidates have to say that they agree with a lot of issues and even the things they do disagree about are not about policy. Its strategy! So either way no matter WHO wins we need to support them! Im gonna say it once and Ill say it again! THE REPUBLICANS ARE GATHERING...AND THE SMOKE OF MT. DOOM RISES AGAIN!!! GET IT TOGETHER DEMOCRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 27, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. di

    mike huckabee has not dropped out why should hilary... even if she loses both texas and ohio she should stay on till the convention and fight him with superdelegates.

    February 27, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  19. Smith





    has as much GOOD SENSE!

    Democrats UNITE!


    February 27, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  20. Deb

    This reminds me of the OJ Simpson trial where black people sided with him regardless. I feel Obama has played the race card and poached Hillary's delegates and that is a good reason not to vote for him.

    I've just made up my mind GO HILLARY!!!

    February 27, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. Nancy

    Fine, just fine. ANOTHER GUTLESS, MALE WONDER!!!!

    February 27, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. John - Spokane, WA

    SO WHAT ! He's one delegate out of 2025, How come its NEVER News when Hillary picks one up ?

    February 27, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. Tom Green New York New York

    Wait a minute CNN - You don't think your readers see that you're only allowing nice comments about this and that you're deleting the real comments on this subject??? This is racism at its best yet you're moderating opinions out here and not allowing people to post comments. What is going on here?

    February 27, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. kathy

    I can't wait for Sen Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to switch their votes.......

    February 27, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  25. Freedom Lawrence

    America democrat, dont be fool by the clintons.... even God said ask and it shall be given...... though OBAMA loses or wins, i think LEWIS has turned his unto God whom Obama represent. I beleive Lewis has done justice not for obama but for those that support Obama which is the change Obama is talking about. Thanks to the most high God for we all can see it in reality.

    February 27, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
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