September 16th, 2008
06:07 AM ET
10 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. Chris

    I would have voted for General Powell if he had decided to run for president, PRE-UN presentation, of course.

    I am disappointed that Mr. Powell failed to really rail against the administration. I suppose like all politicians, he was talking from both sides of his mouth and keeping his options open.
    I know he mentioned that there were "people in the room who knew" about the lies being told, but the lack of real response shows a lack of true principals.

    I wonder what Powell thinks about Valerie Plame and Richard Clarke.

    I bet he sympathizes now, huh?

    September 16, 2008 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  2. Anonymous

    Powell left the bush adm. mad as hell because of all the lies and scandals.

    I think Powell is going to vote for Obama.

    September 16, 2008 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  3. Franko

    I think what he is trying to say is that John McCain is the most qualified to run our country.

    September 16, 2008 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  4. HouseDiva

    Powell left the bush adm. mad as hell because of all the lies and scandals.

    I think Powell is going to vote for Obama.

    September 16, 2008 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  5. Kdawg

    You go Powell! Tell it like it is. Get them talking about the issues! Now your one republican I would consider voting for!

    September 16, 2008 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  6. Sue in MI

    To bad McCain has lost all ability to tell the truth. I don't think Palin was ever honest. The debates will be interesting, but not because McCain will finally have to talk issues. he has gotten so used to blaming Obama for everything and changing topics, that it will take a skilled moderator to force him to stay on topic. Wish Tim were still here!

    September 16, 2008 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  7. fred

    Colin Powell dishonors his parents, race and himself by saying he will not vote for Obama because he is black since he is an American first. He is BLACK first. He is definitely leaning towards Obama, that is why he has not come out for McCain already, but he is also a coward because he does not want to anger his republican friends. I thought Generals were decisive in making decisions!

    September 16, 2008 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  8. bill

    General Powell already had his chance to stand-up for the United States when he knew that Bush and Cheney were pushing us into a war that wasn't justified, I rather see him join his friends on the Republican side. He has had plenty of time to clear the air concering his part in the Iraq debacle, he chose to remain silent, i suggest he do the same now!

    September 16, 2008 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  9. Alberto

    I have a lot of respect for Mr. Powell. I guess it's time for him to get back at those in the repulican party who made a fool and scapegoat out of him. I seriously believe that he will support the Obama/Biden ticket when he makes his decision.

    September 16, 2008 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  10. Copy-Cat

    McBoneHead followed GWB.....Now he's following a Democrat.....McCain goes where everybody is looking. "Hey Look at me too media"..that's why he chose Plack as his VP . She doesn't even realize she's being used. Is her hair blonde? No wait that's Cindy. This egg-head is now using "Change We Need". Then Molly -the- Rag doll is following right along with it. Where's your campaign slogan McFollower and Plain?

    September 16, 2008 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  11. McCain for Pres.

    I think Colin Powell would like to vote for Obama because he is black, but deep doen he knows John McCain is the right man for the job. Terrorists have not attacked our country because we have a strong President and they know he will retaliate. Obama only wants to talk.

    September 16, 2008 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  12. Blayze Kohime

    I'm hoping that he supports Obama. At the very least, Powell is someone that always shows restraint and a good deal more subtle wisdom than most politicians in either party.

    September 16, 2008 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  13. Elaine

    It's not a matter of Powell having a high opinion of himself to think that we are waiting around for his pick. He said he was going to see what happens in the debates. Quite frankly, I think that's what a lot of indpendent voters are waiting for.

    September 16, 2008 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  14. Richard in PA

    If Powell supports Obama, many will write if off as a racial thing. If he supports McCain, not many will notice or care. So in my estimation, it won't mean much.

    September 16, 2008 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  15. Long time Democrat for McCain

    He is going with McCain. Soooo obvious. He is just trying not to upset black people.

    September 16, 2008 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  16. Robert

    Regardsless of whether Barack is considered bi-racial, black or tan...he is the man we need for President!!

    (How can anyone vote for McCain and put the Rebulicans back in the Oval Office? They have just about Bankrupted this country already. WE REALLY CAN'T STAND ANOTHER 4 YEARS OF THEIR RULE!!!)

    September 16, 2008 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  17. Patricia

    Mr. Powell has always been a man of integrity. For him to say that Obama is electrifying speaks volumes. For the mere fact that he has known McCain for over 30 years and hasn't endorsed him lets you know that he does not approve of his tactics. Way to go Mr. Powell. It is ok for you to like a Democrat whether the Repubs like it or not. You are on the winning team.

    Obama/Biden 2008

    September 16, 2008 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  18. larry wi

    Powell is obviously a smart guy, and one who should have been running for President. What has to be the most important issue being decided during this election is who is the best possible candidate to rebuild the economy, and with that comes the question who has the business savy, and experience of big business on their side to do just that. The answer is obvious as to who doesn't!! We need a leader who understands what it takes to make a business successful, what it's like to meet payroll, what it's like to work with multiple personalties, what it's like to be successful, and profitable, and in doing so keeps jobs here, and American's working, anyway the ones who want to work. The problem with the Democratic way is that they want to take away from the ones who have worked and earned what they have and give it to those who haven't worked and or earned it, because for some strange reason these individuals feel as though they deserve it, and if it's there for the taking they will be fithe first in line. The USA is on of the biggest imaginable businesses in the world, do we want a community organizer running it!!

    September 16, 2008 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  19. James From Chicago

    OBAMA has got to win if we want to turn this country around.

    I am so glad Jack Cafferty is back, I don't always agree with him, but
    I know he will uncover all of Palins Lies.
    Jack you have got to help the American people, we cannot have
    another Bush term.PLEASE.

    September 16, 2008 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  20. jazzer

    Just a little note for you people if you are one of the few americans who give donations to either McCain or obama thank GWB that you have the money in your pocket to give.Have anice day

    September 16, 2008 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  21. Marie

    After his presentation of absolute nonsense he gave at the UN concerning the run up to the war, I lost all respect for him. Nothing and no one could have gotten me to lie like that especially when human lives were at stake. I have no respect for this man. I see no honor either candidate would gain by his support. He alone with Bush and company should be tried as war criminals.

    September 16, 2008 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  22. Robert

    Call Powell for what he is, A WAR CRIMINAL.


    September 16, 2008 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  23. John in Ohio

    "Powell's right about one thing, a rarity for this War Criminal: the election of an African American candidate WOULD, indeed, be electrifying.

    Too bad there is no such candidate. Obama is biracial."

    Given that his dad is African and his mother is American, I'd say that quite definitively makes him African-American. If my dad was German and my mom was Irish, I'd be German-Irish.

    September 16, 2008 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  24. scoot

    thats why he is a great general, he can be bipartisan

    September 16, 2008 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  25. Bob Indianapolis, IN

    Colin was a fine leader until they made him repeat the false intel about WMD in fron of the U.N. I'm sure he's still pretty bitter about that.

    September 16, 2008 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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