Friday, February 15, 2008

John Lewis to vote for Obama at convention

The New York Times reports that Congressman John Lewis of Georgia will be switching his super-delegate vote at the Democratic Convention this summer from Senator Hillary Clinton to Senator Barack Obama. Lewis is a civil rights hero and well-respected lawmaker in Congress. He had announced his support of Clinton last fall. The announcement of his switch comes as a boost to the momentum the Obama campaign has already generated up to this point. Whether or not this signals any movement by super-delegates to Obama is yet to be seen but it certainly is bad news for the Clinton campaign.

Josh Marshall has these thoughts on the Lewis switch and super-delegates:
In the thick of a campaign it is easy to overrate the importance of an endorsement or a political hit. But it is difficult to overstate the significance of John Lewis' switch from the Clinton to Obama camps because it is a devastating blow on two or three levels wrapped together in a single person. Lewis' historic and moral stature in the African-American community and in the modern Democratic party bulks very large. “In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” Lewis told the Times. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.” This is a curious statement as he seems to be suggesting that his earlier endorsement of Clinton was based on his own failure to set his sights sufficiently high. What's more, the willingness of a high-profile politician not simply to endorse one candidate but to switch from one to another (at least in terms of who he believes he'll vote for as a super delegate) is a powerful sign that a tipping point is at hand.

But the most immediate and significant import is Lewis's signal that whatever the basis of his original endorsement he is unwilling to join Clinton in carving a path to the nomination through the heart of the Democratic party. The tell in Lewis's announcement is that he is not technically withdrawing his endorsement from Hillary, at least not yet. He is saying that as a super delegate (which is by virtue of being a member of Congress) he plans to vote for Obama at the convention. On Wednesday the Clinton camp started pushing hard on the idea that a delegate is a delegate and if they need to pack on super delegates to overwhelm Obama's edge with elected delegates then so be it. A win is a win is a win. I take this as Lewis saying he just won't sign on for that.

… The Clinton camp's super delegate gambit is not only audacious. Far more than that it is simply unrealistic. The super delegates who are gettable for Clinton by loyalty, conviction or coercion are already got. And enough's been seen of both candidates for everyone to be more than acquainted with them. The ones who remain -- who make up roughly half the total -- are waiting to see who the winner is.

The truth is that there are over 1000 elected delegates remain to be won. We really don't know what's going to happen yet. But if the trend continues and Obama ends the primary season with a clear majority of unelected delegates, the idea that those remaining super delegates will break for the candidate who won fewer delegates, raised less money and is polling worse against the Republican nominee simply makes no sense.

Postscript Friday evening: Since this morning there has been some confusion about what exactly Congressman Lewis did tell the New York Times. The reporter is sticking by his story and said Lewis told him that if this comes down to a scenario where super-delegates will be required to decide the outcome, he will definitely vote for Obama. According to Josh Marshall:

This isn't mainly about an endorsement or an unendorsement. The real issue here is the Clinton camp's professed willingness to win on super delegates even if they end up with fewer pledged delegates than Obama. The Times may have gotten some nuances wrong, or perhaps Lewis's camp wasn't completely comfortable with how things looked when they saw it on paper. But the bottom line message is that he won't go along with the Clinton strategy.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

If Obama wins Wisconsin and Hawaii decisively. If he performs well at the debate in Texas. If he performs well at the debate in Ohio. If he pulls off an upset and wins either Ohio or Texas, then it will render further conversation about delegates versus delegates irrelevant.

It will be game, set, match, Obama.

Here's hoping.