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Joe Andrew Jumps from Clinton to Obama

Former state and national Democratic Party chairman Joe Andrew announces at a news conference in Indianapolis on May 1, 2008, that he has switched his allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. (Associated Press)

Updated 12:40 p.m.
By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman
Former Democratic Party leader Joe Andrew announced he is switching sides in the primary battle, from longtime ally Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to Sen. Barack Obama.

Andrew's announcement came without warning to either candidate. The Indiana superdelegate released a long letter this morning explaining his decision, while anticipating Clinton "attack dogs" would seek their revenge.

"You can be for someone without being against someone else," Andrew stressed in the letter, using italics for emphasis. "You can unite behind a candidate and a vision for America without rejecting another candidate and their vision, because in real life, opposed to party politics, we Democrats are on the same side."

But as the contest drags on, he added, "it is clear that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue" a Democratic battle that threatens to strengthen the presumptive GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain. He said he would use his influence within the party to press uncommitted superdelegates to sign on with Obama as soon as possible. Speaking to reporters by conference call, Andrew said, "We need to try to stop this process now."

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), a Clinton supporter who has admitted he is under pressure to deliver his state, shrugged off the Andrews endorsement. "I don't think it'll matter one bit in the state of Indiana," he said. "I don't think he's lived in our state for eight or nine years. I don't think he can even vote in Indiana."

At the heart of Andrew's sales pitch will be this message: "Don't settle for the tried and true and the simplistic slogans, but listen to your heart and dare to be inspired. Only a cynic would be critical of Barack Obama inspiring millions. Only the uninformed could forget that the candidate that wins in November is always the candidate that inspires millions."

Andrew explained that he endorsed Clinton early in the process, before he got to know Obama. But as he's observed the Illinois senator, Andrew said he has grown increasingly impressed with Obama's "thoughtful," "calm," and "temperate" responses to everything from the gas tax holiday that both Clinton and McCain are advocating to the flaps over Michigan and Florida, which moved up their primary dates in violation of DNC rules.

Clinton, who won both states' primaries, wants to overturn a DNC ruling to allow the results to be counted, but Obama -- whose name wasn't on the ballot in Michigan -- has resisted making allowances for either rogue state, beyond a neutral seating of delegates at the August convention.

Andrew said he anticipated an ugly backlash from the Clinton camp. "My endorsement of Senator Obama will not be welcome news to my friends and family at the Clinton campaign," he wrote. "If the campaign's surrogates called Governor Bill Richardson, a respected former member of President Clinton's cabinet, a 'Judas' for endorsing Senator Obama, we can all imagine how they will treat somebody like me. They are the best practitioners of the old politics, so they will no doubt call me a traitor, an opportunist and a hypocrite. I will be branded as disloyal, power-hungry, but most importantly, they will use the exact words that Republicans used to attack me when I was defending President Clinton."

Of course, Andrew added, "I am an expert on this because these were the exact tools that I mastered as a campaign volunteer, a campaign manager, a state party chair and the national chair of our party."

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 1, 2008; 11:52 AM ET
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