SPONSORED:

John Lewis is endorsement every Dem candidate wants

Democrats making bids for the White House are clamoring to lock down support from Rep. John LewisJohn LewisNY Times slammed for glowing Farrakhan op-ed: 'You would think he was a gentleman' Washington flooded with Women's March protesters ahead of Barrett confirmation vote HBCU in Alabama renames hall named after KKK leader MORE (D-Ga.), whose endorsement is among the most coveted on Capitol Hill.

The iconic civil rights leader, who switched his endorsement from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Trump, Biden tangle over Wall Street ties, fundraising The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage MORE to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama says he voted by mail: 'It's not as tough as a lot of folks think' Clean energy opportunities in a time of crisis MSNBC host cuts off interview with Trump campaign spokesman after clash on alleged voter fraud MORE in 2008, is holding off on backing a candidate as he considers the massive field of contenders.

In an interview with The Hill, Lewis said “several” 2020 contenders had swung by his office to seek his advice or an endorsement.

ADVERTISEMENT

There are two members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) running for president — Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage Obama says he voted by mail: 'It's not as tough as a lot of folks think' Clean energy opportunities in a time of crisis MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.J.) — but Lewis said he’s giving all of the candidates a look.

“I’d like to see the best possible person be elected, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re from CBC or the Democratic Party,” Lewis said.

“I’m not leaning toward making an endorsement, not at all,” he added.

Lewis’s decision is complicated by his deep history with many of the candidates.

The 17-term Georgia Democrat is longtime friends with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE. They became close over Biden’s time in the Senate, on the campaign trail and through the Obama years.

Lewis got to know former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) in 2016 during the House sit-in for gun control.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Biden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver MORE (D-Mass.) has walked with Lewis at the annual pilgrimage from Selma to Montgomery commemorating “Bloody Sunday,” when Lewis was beaten by police and nearly killed.

Lewis’s office has shared staff with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden defends his health plan from Trump attacks Progressives blast Biden plan to form panel on Supreme Court reform Sanders: Progressives will work to 'rally the American people' if Biden wins MORE (I-Vt.), and he’s co-sponsored bills with Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandInternal Democratic poll: Desiree Tims gains on Mike Turner in Ohio House race Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter's handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech's liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize MORE (D-N.Y.).

And Lewis campaigned vigorously for Stacey Abrams’s gubernatorial bid in Georgia. Abrams is increasingly signaling she’ll run for president, which would give Lewis a home-state African-American woman to consider.

“I’m not even leaning, I’m meeting with people,” Lewis said.

“I’ve taken the time to sit with them on the sofa in my office … some people just want some advice and I’ve been telling them all, get out there and work hard.”

Lewis said he wants a candidate “that can bring the American people together and that can win.”

“We must win,” he said.

Lewis is enormously influential among Democrats and a towering figure of the civil rights movement. He received a standing ovation at this year’s Oscars, where he introduced Best Picture winner “The Green Book,” which is about racial tensions in the Deep South in the early 1960s.

Shortly after President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE was elected, he angered many in Washington for taking a shot at Lewis, who had said Trump was not a legitimate president. Trump responded over Twitter, saying Lewis is “all talk, talk, talk — no action or results.”

Many Republicans rallied behind Lewis in the feud. Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseSweden bans use of Huawei, ZTE equipment in new 5G networks McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (R-Neb.) said Lewis’s “talk” had “changed the world.”

Lewis signaled that if he endorses it could come late in the primary season, potentially providing a burst of momentum for whomever can lock it down.

“The support of John Lewis is both coveted and consequential,” said Cornell William Brooks, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the former president of the NAACP. “His endorsement would show that a candidate is both politically viable and has moral legitimacy.”

In 2007, Lewis initially endorsed Clinton. He switched his endorsement to Obama in February of 2008, which was a devastating blow for Clinton and rocket fuel for Obama.

Lewis could be a kingmaker this cycle as well as the massive field of candidates vies for support from the African-American community.

Biden has strong support among black voters. Sanders struggled to win support from African-Americans during his 2016 presidential run and needs to make inroads there to win the nomination in 2020. Harris and Booker are close with many members of the CBC and have been pressing their colleagues for support.

The CBC will not endorse as a whole, but the lawmakers are discussing the candidates among themselves and a sizable portion may decide to stick together.

“A number of members will get together and endorse probably one of the candidates and that may create a flow of others,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

Rep. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayWomen of color flex political might Five things we learned from this year's primaries Progressives aim for big night in Massachusetts MORE (D-Mo.) isn’t ready to endorse yet either, but said he’d like to see someone from the CBC atop the ticket. Clay said he’d met personally with Harris and Booker. Harris explicitly asked for his endorsement, while Booker just gave him a heads up that he was about to get into the race.

“It’s a crowded field,” Clay said.