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An Obama Champion, Now in Romney's Camp

Once the president’s most ardent fan, former Alabama Representative Artur Davis quit the Democratic Party, became a Republican, and pledged his loyalty to Mitt Romney. What the hell happened?
Artur Davis pauses to listen to a question during an appearance in Fredericksburg, Va.
Artur Davis pauses to listen to a question during an appearance in Fredericksburg, Va.Photograph by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

On a bright August morning in the quiet waterfront town of Edenton, N.C., Artur Davis, a black former congressman from Alabama, looked out at a sea of beaming white faces and grinned. “I’m gonna let you all in on a secret,” he said. “I used to be a Democrat!” Lusty boos dissolved into chuckles. “He saw the light!” someone shouted. Davis nodded. “I once was lost, but now I am found!”

In one sense, the scene was familiar. Four years ago, Davis made a splash in the presidential race by becoming the first congressman outside Illinois to endorse Barack Obama. He delivered a nominating speech at the Democratic convention and gladly embraced the moniker “Obama of Alabama.” Bright, charismatic, and inclined toward an inclusive, post-racial brand of politics, he seemed a sure bet to thrive in the new era. Just weeks after Obama’s inauguration, Davis set out with great fanfare to become Alabama’s first black governor—only to suffer a searing, life-altering loss at the hands of his own party.