Al who? Clinton announces another endorsement

Support from civil rights icon John Lewis is a blow for Barack Obama.

Published October 12, 2007 3:12PM (EDT)

Apparently unable to stand a news cycle that's not about her, Hillary Clinton's campaign has chosen this morning to announce that she's won the endorsement of civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis.

The announcement is a blow for Barack Obama -- not just because Obama considers Lewis "a dear friend and a hero," but because it will likely move the press off of the "Will Gore Run?" storyline (with its implication of dissatisfaction with the Democratic front-runner) and back to the "Why Doesn't Obama Have a Lock on the African-American Vote?" one.

In an interview with NPR in March, Lewis said that Obama had asked him for his endorsement, and that he'd told him, "Senator, my friend, my brother, let us continue to talk, I would like to be helpful." In the same interview, Lewis said the endorsement decision was difficult. Although he said that both Obama and Clinton were "friends," he acknowledged that "many African-Americans" were "just getting to know" Obama. And while he said the Clintons were better known in the African-American community, he also said that the good feelings many had for Hillary came mostly through her husband.

Lewis: Well, I have heard some African American elected officials say, 'I know President Clinton, I know Hillary, they've been around a while, they know the song'; you know, Bill Clinton is one of the few presidents that can stand up and sing every verse of 'Lift Every Voice and Sing.' I can remember a few short years ago, candidate Bill Clinton came to Capitol Hill, two young black men said to me, 'Congressman, Bill Clinton acts more like a brother than a lot of brothers.' So it's a connection there.

NPR: Well, what would you say about Mrs. Clinton?

Lewis: There is this feeling, I think, that if the president is good, if the husband is good, then the wife is going to be good, and Mrs. Clinton would be good as president. I think it has some of that.

But in a statement released by the Clinton campaign this morning, Lewis says that he's now "looked at all the candidates" and concluded that "Hillary Clinton is the best prepared to lead this country at a time when we are in desperate need of strong leadership. She will restore a greater sense of community in America, and reclaim our standing in the world."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton John Lewis D-ga.