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. Erica

    Wow, even Powell hasn't openly backed his own party pick! He won't either, he's no dummy.

    September 16, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  2. Dem for unity

    It would be really electrifying! Obama 2008!

    September 16, 2008 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  3. Sharon Kitchen

    AS a Native American voter ,I agree that Obama will be an electifying
    President. He will bring the change that is so needed. He will also have all the people that wish to have a change take place working with him. It would be a great addition if Powell is among that number.

    September 16, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  4. Ron L

    Actually I think he has already made up his mind and....
    Leave the man alone.

    September 16, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  5. Linda

    We can't afford to have an inexperienced president during times of financial crisis. Choosing Obama would cause a depression. I know African Americans want him because of his race but that's all sweet and nice but not practical. We also can't afford to spend more money and that's what the Dems are all about. McCain/Palin 08' lets come to our senses America.

    September 16, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  6. Mike, Syracuse NY

    It's amazing and sad that so many black conservatives are voting race over principles. Of course by the double standard, that's OK; but if a white person voted by race it's racism.

    September 16, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  7. Annie

    I can't stand what Bush did to Colin Powell, and have a lot of respect for this gentleman. It's very telling that he hasn't come out in support of Senator McCain yet, and is "weighing an endorsement of a Democrat or Independent candidate." His party will call him every filthy name in the book if he goes against them. Very sad that we've come to that. The name calling and hate I've seen on these posts is even more frightening than the economy crumbling at our feet.

    September 16, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  8. peter

    Wow did anyone actually read the article? He said an African American potus would be great, not obama. Then continues to say but he needs to think what is right for the country. In no way did he say he supports obama but did say he has to do what's right for the country so I think he doesn't believe obama is ready.

    September 16, 2008 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  9. Gapon

    Is he really? God what a theater !

    With or without the support of this man and despise all the game play by a so called "impartial press", which is neither; the DemocRats are in for a defeat in November. Let us see the reactions in the streets the aftermath of the elections. The way things have been handled by the worst of the Leftists and supported by the build up of the liberal press it is making the base to believe that we do not have an election in November but rather a "coronation". This is a very dangerous game and could be of unpredictable negative consecuences to the political stability of the nation. STOP your promotion of the "kingdom of your new messiah". In this country the PEOPLE still decide. And contrary to mr.Obama's church proclaims "God Bless America". And those who do not believed it or are proud of US still there are plenty of planes that can take'em to Africa, Iran, Cuba, North Korea, et all.

    September 16, 2008 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  10. TexicoFrom Mexico


    Come CNN post this....and do something about it!!!

    September 16, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  11. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    C'mon, Colin...not only would Obama be "electrifying." but he'd be on the same anti Bush-McCain foreign policy page YOU'RE on!

    McCain = Bush 3!!!

    OBAMA/BIDEN '08 AND '12!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  12. nate

    ..."but black people don't care about experience or leadership." It is people like you Mark that make any patriot ashamed.

    September 16, 2008 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  13. Kathy

    Powell has been mad at the current administration since his speech to the UN that proved to be all lies. If he is going for the party of lies, then stick to McCain. If he wants a party that is running on the issues then vote Obama!
    “Because I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women.” [CNN, 9/24/02]
    “We’re not going to get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad. We may have to take out buildings, but we’re not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies.” [CNN, 9/29/02]
    “But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” [MSNBC, 1/22/03]

    September 16, 2008 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  14. Undecided

    Colin Powell, is right Obama would be electrifiying HOWEVER, he is looking at the facts, obama has NILL EXPERIENCE. McCain is a known quantity and that is a basis for measuring a future path to travel. My belief Gen. Powell will in the end go with McCain. Although this is some what of a popularity contest We the People , are in need of Leadership, and a Leader is not always the most popular or prettiest belle of the ball and choices will need tobe made Obama, needs tobe liked and loved that is a WEAKNESS that can lead to a deaster not any sort of victory for America.

    2012 😉 untill then check and checkmate

    September 16, 2008 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  15. MLD

    It would be electrifying. Like putting the US economy in the electric chair and killing it.

    September 16, 2008 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  16. MJ

    All white democrats that vote republican are racist or so I hear. But Pheonix you need to stop trying to make excuses for YOUR racism.

    September 16, 2008 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  17. Pat from Cali

    Apparently Sarah Palin's plan is to make an investigation that was started way before she was a VP candidate all about Obama.

    The investigation is was started by Alaskans, more Republicans (10) than Democrats (4). At least the press has published that fact. It was also reported that she said she would cooperate. So is she flip-flopping already.

    McCain's campaign has interfered with the investigation by virtue of nomination someone who is under investigation. They must have known this if they vetted her at all.

    September 16, 2008 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  18. nash

    Who cares, Eh, Who definitely cares. This guy is afraid to open his mouth and says what his heart has been itching to have since who knowns when. Let shut and never support or even let him een go and support Mcsane.
    Definitely, people think too high of themselves. Yeh, the whole world has to wait and see who going to support, bozos.
    I have a great respect for powell, I definitely loose it since the first time he said he has made up his mine. I KNOW straightway that this guy is afraid, scare, run chicken run.

    September 16, 2008 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  19. Stephen

    I wish Colin Powell was Barak Obama's running mate. By the way I am a white american. Colin Powell is one of the greatest men that has ever been a leader in this country. He is a true american hero and leader. If he were running for President he could give them all more than they wanted in competition for the white house. His opinion does matter to many americans. I suspect which ever way he declares his support will affect the poles.

    September 16, 2008 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  20. interesting

    you are right Powell, it would be deadly for the destruction of America and Israel

    So we are working real hard to prevent those fireworks.

    PUMA 2008!

    September 16, 2008 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  21. Jon

    Nice headline, CNN. The quote was, "The election of an African-American president would be electrifying."

    This article could also have easily been titled: "Powell still undecided, says he likes and admires John McCain."

    Or better yet, it could have been titled, "Powell still undecided."

    Or even better yet, you could have dismissed this entire article as non-news, as it adds nothing substantive.

    September 16, 2008 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  22. Spencer from VA

    He's going to vote for Obama. He pretty much slid you a hint when giving his speech yesterday.

    September 16, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  23. Jeff

    Powell knows Obama "extremely well?" That’s interesting considering Obama has only been around for a few short years. Perhaps Powell knew Obama when he was a do-nothing state senator. Powell is a bit short on credibility these days so one really has to question all that he says and wonder about his motives. As for being an exciting person on the political stage who has energized a lot of people, well if anyone recalls correctly, G.W. Bush energized many people also and we can all see where that got us. I can’t stand John McCain and his right-wing crack pot running mate, and I really think that Obama is the biggest con man in American history. I'll be sitting home in November watching as the parade of clowns begins.

    September 16, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  24. Janeen

    I think Obama should Put Powell in his cabinet.
    I realized the moment he left the Bush administration after the onset of Iraq.
    He was a man of ethics that was lied to .And we the American people were screwed.
    I have great respect for this man!

    September 16, 2008 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  25. Angela, Cleveland, OH

    Sadly,the opinions of Mr. Powell will forever be suspect. After the "speech" to the UN filled with untruths he is no longer the esteemed statesman. It is a shame Bush and the rest of the war seeking cabal pressured him to ruining his reputation forever.

    September 16, 2008 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12