Artur Davis: Ex-Obama Ally on Switch to GOP

Blogging the Beltway: Former Democrat talks RNC speech, black voters and "Uncle Tom" critiques.

The Washington Post
The Washington Post

(The Root) — Next to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the most widely touted African-American speaker at this week’s Republican National Convention is a man best known on the national stage for his passionate support of President Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

What a different four years can make.

In 2008, then-congressman and former Obama law-school classmate Artur Davis was one of a handful of black Democratic rising stars, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, California elected official Kamala Harris and others, credited with ushering in an Obama-era of post civil rights generation political leaders. Since then Davis had his rise up the political ladder abruptly halted by a bruising primary loss in the Alabama governor’s race.

His announcement earlier this year that he had officially left the party he had once represented in Congress and become a registered Republican was met with cheers in conservative circles and skepticism among Democrats who have branded him a “sore loser.” The DNC has even used him as fodder for a campaign ad. Tuesday evening, Davis is slated to address the Republican National Convention. “The Romney campaign engaged me in conversations midsummer about doing activities for them as a surrogate in Virginia and other states, and at some of those conversations they brought up the idea of me speaking at the convention, and I decided to do it,” Davis told The Root.

In a candid conversation with The Root, Davis addressed his critics and his political conversion. 

[Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for length.]

The Root: Why did you decide to speak at the Republican National Convention?

Artur Davis: I agreed to speak at the convention because I do think that the story of the 7 million Democrats or the 7 million Obama supporters [from 2008] who say they don’t plan to support the president in 2012 is an important one. I think it’s one of the stories that’s been missed in this campaign, and it’s very important strategically for the Romney campaign and it’s important for the American people to see that … There’s not going to be another speaker at the [GOP] convention who can speak to that point of view, and I felt I could credibly do that, and I do support Gov. Romney and his campaign. 

TR: What was the primary issue that convinced you that Gov. Romney would make a better president than President Obama?