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 LewisDemocrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Detroit police chief calls Tlaib facial recognization idea 'racist' 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 ClintonJordan calls Pelosi accusing Trump of bribery 'ridiculous' DOJ watchdog won't let witnesses submit written feedback on investigation into Russia probe: report What are Republicans going to do after Donald Trump leaves office? MORE to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaWhat are Republicans going to do after Donald Trump leaves office? Krystal Ball: Patrick's 2020 bid is particularly 'troublesome' for Warren Deval Patrick: Biden 'misses the moment' in 2020 campaign 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.


There are two members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) running for president — Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule Democratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop 'overuse' of solitary confinement MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop 'overuse' of solitary confinement Krystal Ball: Patrick's 2020 bid is particularly 'troublesome' for Warren 2020 Democrats demand action on guns after Santa Clarita shooting 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 BidenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California 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 Ann WarrenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Following school shooting, Biden speaks out: 'We have to protect these kids' 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 SandersButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE (I-Vt.), and he’s co-sponsored bills with Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMaloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee She Should Run launches initiative to expand number of women in political process 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 TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation 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 SasseTrump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Trump has officially appointed one in four circuit court judges Senators press NSA official over shuttered phone surveillance program 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 ClayGOP senator blasts Dem bills on 'opportunity zones' 'Squad' members recruit Raskin to run for Oversight gavel Speier to run for Oversight gavel 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.