September 16th, 2008
06:07 AM ET
6 years ago

Powell still undecided, says Obama win would be 'electrifying'

Powell, a Republican, has said he may not back the GOP pick this cycle.
Powell, a Republican, has said he may not back the GOP pick this cycle.

(CNN) - Former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that he has not yet decided which candidate to back in this year’s presidential race.

The election of an African-American president “would be electrifying,” Powell told a George Washington University audience, “but at the same time [I have to] make a judgment here on which would be best for America.

“I have been watching both individuals, I know them both extremely well, and I have not decided who I am going to vote for. And I'm interested to see what the debates are going to be like because we have to get off of this ‘lipstick on a pig’ stuff and get into issues,” he said.

Powell's full comments will air on “The Next President: A World of Challenges” this Saturday night at 9pm ET and again Sunday at 2pm ET.

Last month, as the retired general’s office denied a report that he had decided to publicly back Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, several sources told CNN’s John King that Powell was still undecided. “As always, he is holding his cards close and waiting for more information," one adviser close to Powell told CNN’s John King.

Earlier this year, Powell told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he was weighing an endorsement of a Democrat or independent candidate. “I am keeping my options open at the moment,” said Powell.

“I have voted for members of both parties in the course of my adult life. And as I said earlier, I will vote for the candidate I think can do the best job for America, whether that candidate is a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent,” he added.

Powell also offered praise for Obama, calling him an “exciting person on the political stage.

“He has energized a lot of people in America,” said Powell, who briefly weighed his own run for the White House in the mid-1990s. “He has energized a lot of people around the world. And so I think he is worth listening to and seeing what he stands for.”

Last month, a Powell adviser told CNN that "he likes and admires John McCain, and that would be a factor in anything he does if he decides to get more involved."

Another source close to Powell said that he has known McCain for more than three decades “and likes him, and is looking for a reason to vote for him. He hasn't found it yet."

soundoff (294 Responses)
  1. LF

    Excellent decision to make the best choice for America. Had he been able to run for Oval Office in the past–he would have been a great president.

    A prudent and careful thinking man always thinking what is best for America and humanity. We're most fortunate to have had him serve in other capacities of leadership. I salute him with the greatest respect.

    September 16, 2008 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  2. Hillary Supporter for McCain/Palin

    do I need to say more.

    September 16, 2008 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  3. Byron

    I think Colin is as tired of the betrayal of America by the Republicans since Reagan as the rest of us is, since 1980 this country has become a hooray for me and to #@ll with the rest of you ideology that I am sick and tired of. People have become rude and extremely selfish on the road, in the store, or anywhere you go. That is the true Conservative heritage of I am for me and no one else. We have seen more deception from the Republicans than any other party in history and I am tired of it.

    I was a Republican until Regan and what has transpired under him and both Bushes is a travesty and now McCain wants to continue it. I can’t wait to vote for Obama, not that I support him I am just sick and tired of this type of politics and the attitude it has created in this country. We need change and we need to realize that people have to work together not be trying to get all they can for themselves. I don’t know if Obama is any different but I am willing to take the chance to find out.

    September 16, 2008 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  4. Greg, NY

    I'll bet on the fact that he's saving his endorsement of Obama for a 'media attention grabber.'

    The second Obama needs to steal some spotlight back, he'll roll out Powell, possibly Hagel too. Closer to the election would be optimal I suppose.

    September 16, 2008 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  5. T

    McCain, 72, was pretty clear that he thinks the economy is doing good despite the difficulties of this crisis. He has seriously compromised himself as the Republican candidate.

    Hopefully, McCain will retire now.

    September 16, 2008 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  6. Tim

    This is a surprise to anyone? Powell can only be characterized as a Republican if you add the qualifier: RINO!
    By the way, keep the comments coming Obama supporters. They make for amusing reading. I especially like the one on a previous article stating that CNN's poll is unreliable and that they want McCain to win. LOL. You guys seriously need to visit your doctors and request some Xanax and their choice of anti psychotic. These remaining few weeks will be fun as you watch it all continue to slip away................. :)

    September 16, 2008 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  7. AlAnbari

    Mr. Powell lost all credibility when he allowed himself to be used by presenting a false picture at the UN.

    His opinion now is irrelevant and he will go down in history as a pawn in the Bush game.

    September 16, 2008 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  8. justsaynotoobama

    Can any of you provide support for any of Obama's policies in a clear and intelligent manner? Also please state how each will help the American people? I have not heard anything support or details yet!

    September 16, 2008 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  9. The world is watching!

    I served under the command of Gen. Powell during my second tour in the Gulf in late 1992. His decisions are that of a REAL leader. Did we stay in the Hot zone for years? NO!!!! We did what we had to do and got out. Bush is protecting something there and it's the people of Iraq. $$$$$$$

    September 16, 2008 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  10. Georgia Gal

    The fact that he is a Republican and hasn't made up his mind yet, IMO, speaks volumes. I'd love it if he'd say is was voting for Obama. Boy would that put the McCain camp in a tizzy.

    September 16, 2008 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  11. KDD

    Powell lost all respect when he knowingly lied at the U.N. All he had to do to keep us from Iraq was resign. That action would have stopped the Neocons and made Powell one of the bravest, wisest men to serve. Instead he followed with the rest, giving up his dignity and my respect. If he is going to support someone, he needs to get off his b*tt and earn America's respect again by telling us his choice, his mistakes, and where we need to be headed. Only his actions will tell the truth about his character. The story so far is not pleasant.

    September 16, 2008 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  12. Tyler

    There are seriously way too many radical liberals on these comment boards. Obama has NO experience...is that hard to understand? I don't just want somebody saying the word "change." I want somebody with the history of backing it up. Obama votes with his party 97% of the time. He is THE most liberal senator of all washington. The president should be MODERATE to cater to both sides on all issues.

    September 16, 2008 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  13. C. Powell for Obama

    Come on Colin ... "electrify" us!

    September 16, 2008 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  14. H-minus

    A Soldiers, Soldiers. I recently had a conversation with a former Veitnam Veteran who met Gen Powell when he was wounded as a LTC, the story of how then LTC Powell was to be receiving treatment for injuries but instead was giving battle orders was amazing. Gen Powell cares about the troops, he is a true American whom was lead to believe that Iraq had what it did not have. America please vote with your heart and not with your backside, this election is not about the candidate, it's about us the people. Use your vote wisely not recklessly.

    September 16, 2008 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  15. Kenneth Tenebro

    It is a 110 degrees here and on our 3rd day of dust storm. 50 days to the election is not fast enough for us fighting this war. Who ever can bring us home fast gets my vote. B= ring US H=ome! How I wished Gen Powell was picked by Sen. Obama as VP. That would have been a slam dunk. But then again so was the WMD thing, turned out to be a bust.

    September 16, 2008 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  16. Obama is 43% Muslim = Arab-American president

    The first African-American president is a deception....... look at Obama's real heritage for all those blacks voting on that basis.

    September 16, 2008 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  17. Carol, Hawaii

    The election Powell for president “would be electrifying,” but the equivocating Obama isn't ready for the Oval Office! Challenges rock Obama's boat!

    McCain threw team Obama for a loop when he chose Governor Palin for his VP! She really is a game changer, and the vitriolic attacks against her and her family were a rapid response by Obama!

    Now, team Obama is trying to change their game plan by calling Senator McCain a liar! What a demeaning, sleazy version of the pot calling the kettle black! :(

    McCain/Palin 08! :) Obama/Biden never!

    September 16, 2008 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  18. JohnBoy

    REMEMBER, ITS OK TO VOTE FOR A WHITE PERSON.

    September 16, 2008 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  19. Ella

    Good for Gen. Powell! I continue to be impressed with his judgment (except that horrible WMD issue, sigh.) Count me among those who wish he'd run years ago, but I remain even more impressed that he put his wife & families issues above that honor. No matter what, I believe he could have been perhaps a less divisive first black president...maybe even THE ONLY guy to bring together the country these days.
    Yet Another PATRIOTIC & CATHOLIC Obama Voter here.

    September 16, 2008 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  20. John

    What a shame General Powell, you should be running, not them!

    September 16, 2008 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  21. Deb, Allentown, PA

    Another source close to Powell said that he has known McCain for more than three decades “and likes him, and is looking for a reason to vote for him. He hasn't found it yet."

    Nor will he ever. The BS coming from the McCain camp just keeps getting deeper and deeper.

    September 16, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  22. JWM

    General, you were always to good soldier and one of our most honorable public servants. Bush gave you a wheelbarrel of crap to unload at the U.N. with Iraq and WMD.

    I'd respectfully urge you to remember that truth, honor and the ability to pick good people are important. That rules out McCain, doesn't it?

    September 16, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  23. Carol, Hawaii

    The election of Powell for president “would be electrifying,” but the equivocating Obama isn't ready for the Oval Office! Challenges rock his boat!

    McCain threw Obama for a loop when he chose Governor Palin for his VP! She really is a game changer, and the vitriolic attacks against her and her family were a rapid response by Obama that didn't work!

    Now, Obama is trying to change the game plan by calling Senator McCain a liar! What a demeaning, sleazy version of the pot calling the kettle black! :(

    McCain/Palin 08! :)

    September 16, 2008 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  24. Ronda

    Yeah, I can't find a reason to vote for McCain either. Furthermore, the positive interest has peaked for the republican candidates, and all they could do was barely tie.

    Bye bye Bushy-policies. Hello to a fresh start!

    September 16, 2008 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  25. Republican not voting for McCain/Palin

    It's a clear choice. You can vote for real solid change with Obama/Biden and turn the economy around or someone that is out of touch running with a dictator with McCain/Palin. Both McCain/Palin will extend the same old Bush policies.

    Obama/Biden

    September 16, 2008 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
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