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.
(CNN) – A few weeks ago, 21-year-old Wisconsin superdelegate Jason Rae was taken out to breakfast by Chelsea Clinton in the runup to that state’s Democratic primary.
Two days after the vote, the college junior – who will be the youngest superdelegate at this year’s Democratic National Convention - is undecided no longer: he’s backing Barack Obama.
“The Democratic Party is fortunate to have two very talented individuals running for President this election,” said Rae in a statement released by the Obama campaign Thursday. “It is a difficult choice for anyone, but in the end, the choice for me has become clear. I am proudly supporting Senator Barack Obama.”
He cited Obama’s support from an overwhelming majority of young voters as the major reason for his decision.
The Democratic Party’s roughly 800 superdelegates – who can cast their votes for any candidate they choose, regardless of their state’s primary or caucus results – have been at the center of a fierce lobbying effort by the campaigns of both Barack Obama and Chelsea Clinton’s mother, Hillary Clinton.
Rae, a Marquette University history and political science major, talked political strategy and electability over a half-hour breakfast with the former First Daughter a little more than a week before his state’s February 19 primary.
He said then he had also been called by former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who tried to convince him to vote for Clinton, and by Sen. John Kerry, who urged him to back Obama. He also spoke with Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama.
Related video: Watch Jason Rae on Anderson Cooper 360
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN) - The superdelegates going to the Democratic convention in Denver at the end of the summer include all the elected Democratic governors, senators, and representatives. Right? Wrong.
Michigan’s Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, is not a superdelegate. Neither are Sen. Carl Levin or congressmen John Conyers and John Dingell. The same is the case for Florida’s Democratic senator, Bill Nelson. He won’t be a superdelegate. Neither will representatives Robert Wexler or Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
That’s because Michigan and Florida moved up their primaries into January, before the February 5 Super Tuesday schedule. That broke party rules, and as a result, the Democratic Party stripped them of their pledged and unpledged delegates. The superdelegates are unpledged - meaning they can support any candidate they want.
Thus, the 795 superdelegates at the Democratic convention do not include the 28 who would have come from Michigan and the 22 who would have come from Florida. That could change only if party leaders reconsider their decision.
There is talk of organizing caucuses in both states if the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remains deadlocked going into May and June. Organizing full-scale primaries is much more difficult and much more expensive. Hillary Clinton hasn’t done well in caucuses so far.
At the same time, however, she and her supporters believe they can still win those big states. They did “win” the most votes during the January primaries even though none of the candidates could campaign there and Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan.
I suspect we will see caucuses in Michigan and Florida if this race remains unresolved. That is possible. The Democratic Party big shots would prefer that to a brokered convention on the floor in Denver.
–CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) - Democrats say they have a "dream team" of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama but they might be looking at a nightmare if superdelegates have to determine which one will be at the top of the ticket.
Usually the superdelegates are an afterthought - the nominee normally emerges before the National Democratic Convention by winning enough delegates in the caucuses and primaries to capture the nomination.
But this year, Obama and Clinton are running such a tight race that after millions of votes and months of campaigning, neither candidate is expected to have the 2,025 delegates needed to seal the nomination before the August convention.
And the superdelegates, a group of about 800 people who cast their vote at the convention, could set a candidate over the top.
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Hillary Clinton probably doesn't like the message coming from some of her supporters, who are now questioning her reliance on superdelegates in order to beat Barack Obama.
New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, who is one of Clinton's top African-American allies, insists it's the people, and not the superdelegates, who will select the Democratic nominee for president. Rangel adds, "The people's will is what's going to prevail at the convention and not people who decide what the people's will is."
Then there's New York Senator Chuck Schumer, another big Clinton supporter, who doesn't seem pleased with Clinton's willingness to fight it out with Obama on the floor of the convention in August. New York's senior senator is calling on both Clinton and Obama to agree on a winner after the last caucus in June. He says, "I don't think either candidate wants, or can even get away with, forcing their will down the throat of the other."
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
(CNN) - Some Democrats say they fear their party's method of picking a nominee might turn undemocratic as neither presidential candidate is likely to gather the delegates needed for the nomination.
Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are running neck and neck toward the party's August convention in Denver, Colorado. Most projections show neither getting the necessary 2,025 delegates in the remaining nominating contests before then.
Party rules call for the votes of superdelegates - 800 or so party officers, elected officials and activists - to tip the balance. The party instituted the system to avoid the turmoil that a deadlocked race would create at a convention.
But even some superdelegates are questioning the system, as the party heads toward the conclusion of a race in which they might determine the outcome.
(CNN) – The tight presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has brought unaccustomed scrutiny to superdelegates, the Democratic Party insiders who may prove decisive in deciding the party’s presidential nomination this year.
Superdelegates are party leaders, Democratic members of Congress, former presidents and Democratic governors, who each get a delegate vote at the party’s nominating convention and are free to cast it for any candidate, regardless of their state’s primary season preference.
Two of these party insiders told American Morning anchor John Roberts Monday that they are ‘uncomfortable’ with their votes being the deciding factor.
“I think the best people to decide our nominee should be actual voters in primaries and caucuses,” said Maine superdelegate Sam Spencer, adding that the function of superdelegates was “somewhat outdated and not the most democratic way of doing things.”
CNN estimates Hillary Clinton already has the support of 224 out of the 796 superdelegates and Barack Obama has support from 135, leaving 437 up for grabs.
–CNN's Emily Sherman
ORONO, Maine (CNN) – Senator Hillary Clinton took issue Saturday with the notion put forward by the Obama campaign that party superdelegates should vote the way of their states and districts.
“Superdelegates are by design supposed to exercise independent judgment, that is the way the system works,” she told reporters after a town hall in Orono, Maine. “If Sen. Obama and his campaign continue to push this position which is really contrary to what the definition of a super delegate has historically been then I look forward to receiving the support of Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Kerry.”
Obama picked up the highly publicized endorsements of both Massachusetts senators only to lose the state to Clinton in last Tuesday’s primary.
Clinton said she thought super delegates often had the unique position of having “first-hand knowledge of the candidates” and “if people want to go after delegates in places that I’ve won who are supporting somebody else, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
There seems to be a growing consensus that if the contests play out as expected, both Clinton and Obama will essentially be tied in pledged delegates at the end of the primary season – leaving it to super delegates to decide the race.
Clinton said “anything can happen in politics” and said she could envision a scenario where conventional wisdom is turned on its ear and either her or Obama comes out a winner – “you all covered me in New Hampshire you know anything can happen in a campaign.”
According to the most recent CNN count, Hillary Clinton has the support of 223 superdelegates, and Barack Obama has the support of 131.
In recent days, the Clinton campaign has sought to portray Obama as running “an establishment race” given his hefty war chest and string of high profile backers.
“He [Obama] has increasingly relied on big endorsements and celebrities to sort of attach himself to to get the kind of validation that comes from that sort of endorsement,” Clinton said. “He has increasingly, in my view, really tailored his positions so that they are more establishment oriented, like giving up on universal health care.”
The New York senator will spend most of Saturday in Maine where voters will head out tomorrow to caucus. She ends her day in Richmond at that state’s Democratic party Jefferson Jackson dinner.
–CNN Senior Political Producer Sasha Johnson
(CNN) – In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, explained and defended the involvement of so-called “superdelegates” in picking her party’s presidential nominee.
Superdelegates were established, Pelosi explained, in order to allow grassroots Democratic activists to attend the nominating convention without having to compete with high-ranking Democratic party officials for a coveted spot on the convention floor. “So, again, I don’t think that members of Congress, governors and senators are not attuned to what’s happening in their states and in their districts,” said Pelosi.
Asked by Blitzer whether she would be troubled by a brokered Democratic convention where superdelegates tipped the ballots in favor of either Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama, Pelosi defended her party’s system. “These superdelegates are all part of their state delegation, so that state will speak,” Pelosi said, when its delegation participates in the convention. The superdelegates “work out their preference working with the people of their state,” she added.
Pelosi refused to weigh in on talk of a Democratic “dream ticket” involving both Clinton and Obama but she did note that roughly 15 million Americans voted for either Clinton or Obama on Super Tuesday. “The vitality of these two campaigns is attracting so many people,” said Pelosi.
Programming note: Watch Wolf Blitzer’s entire interview with Pelosi on Late Edition this Sunday beginning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart