Rep. John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said on Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Sen. Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.
“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”
Lewis, who carries great influence among other members of Congress, disclosed his decision in an interview as the Service Employees International Union was on the brink of endorsing Obama.
His comments came as fresh signs emerged that Clinton’s support was beginning to erode from some other African-American lawmakers who also serve as superdelegates. Rep. David Scott of Georgia, who was among the first to defect, said he would not go against the will of voters in his district, who overwhelmingly supported Obama last week.
The developments came on a day in which Clinton set out anew to prove that the fight for the Democratic nomination was far from over. Campaigning in Ohio, she pursued a new strategy of biting attack lines against Obama, while adopting a newly populist tone as she courted blue-collar voters.
Clinton also intensified her efforts in Wisconsin, which holds its primary on Tuesday and where she and Obama now have the first dueling negative television advertisements of the campaign.
In the ads, Clinton taunted Obama for refusing to debate her in Wisconsin. And she and former President Bill Clinton prepared for a new fund-raising blitz to try to counter Obama’s edge of several million dollars in campaign cash.
Yet even as the Democratic rivals looked ahead to the primaries in Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas, Lewis said he and other prominent African American party leaders had been moved by Obama’s recent victories and his ability to transcend racial and geographic lines.
Though Lewis had praise for Clinton and for her historic candidacy, he said he would decide within days whether to formally endorse Obama.