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. rater

    As a white female, I would vote for a black male, but not Obama!

    September 16, 2008 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  2. steve

    Colin Powell – the most overrated political figure in America.

    September 16, 2008 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  3. Stacey

    @Mark; Black Americans don't want to vote for eight more years of the same b.s. just like other Americans. We don't want to vote for a candidate that thinks the economy is "fundamentally good." We don't want to vote for a candidate who's v.p. "can see Russia from Alaska." We want to vote for the right candidate who actually has a plan to help all Americans, and that's Barrack Obama, who just happens to be both black and white.

    September 16, 2008 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  4. David

    His clue is..what's best for America.....ie a proven leader of courage (McCain) ..vs a johnny-come lately..I know it all (Obama)

    Powell will vote for McCain

    September 16, 2008 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  5. mou

    Vote for the ole Playboy and TV Sports Reporter. Oh, I am sorry...journalist,
    Sports Journalist.

    September 16, 2008 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  6. EBC

    YES!!! I think Colin Powell is a brilliant man. I pray he endorses Obama and helps put this country back on TRACK and puts AMERICA back in the RESPECTFUL AND HONORABLE COUNTRY, not just in America but around the world!

    September 16, 2008 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  7. mr.g

    to all those that can not see through mccain/palin and all their lies,wake up and smell the coffee. they have been fying all the time.palin never went to iraq,never visited ireland(fueling stop)supported the bridge to nowhere now wants a airport for a town of 100 (must own vacation property there)mccain/ palin are really TIM CONWAY AND TINA FEY ARE YOU ALL TOO BLIND TOO SEE.

    OBAMA 08/12 THIS WILL BE A DAY THAT CHANGES HISTORY .

    September 16, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  8. troy of Mississippi

    I am a retired U.S. Army 1SG. There is no doubt in my mind that John Mc Cain will have us in war after war. He somehow wants to prove that he can fight the world. Maybe it is his way of payback for the years that he was a POW. Mr. Powell, your endorsement of Sen. Obama could very well save many of servicemembers and their families from what a John Mc Cain and a Gov. Palin ticket would launch them into, WAR.

    September 16, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  9. Glenn; Bakersville, NC.

    A lot of people give Gen. Powell grief for going along with Bush on the WMD fiasco, and justifiably so. On the other hand, I respect this individual for being a great "Soldier" and "Patriot". He was not meant to be a Secretary of State, although he did a good job. He should have been Secretary of Defense, as that was in his blood. I for one took away a subtle message when he did not come out and immediately endorse McCain, and everyone else should think about that. Gen. Powell has proven himself to be a diehard conservative, who has towed the party line at great personal expense. For him to even consider Sen. Obama over Sen. McCain is noteworthy to say the least.

    September 16, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  10. Jericho

    You would think that after being an integral part of lying to the American people and the world he'd be smarter than to even open his mouth! There is no way to forget his holding that little bottle of white powder to make a point in front of the UN. His hands have blood on them too and there's no contest. The US needs McCain like they need a dose!

    September 16, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  11. Patty

    So, a black peson can completely ignore his conservative beliefs and vote for the most liberal candidate ever, just because he's "black", but a white person who doesn't vote for BO is considered a racist. No double standard here.

    September 16, 2008 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  12. Chuck

    What's best for the country? Has he been asleep for the past few years since he left the Bush administration out of disgust with the whole administration? Speak up Mr. Powell, don't be afraid. You know who the right choice is. We had enough LIES for the past 8 years. No more. Wake up America.

    September 16, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  13. Kenneth

    Republicans have themselves to blame if they don't get Powell's endorsement. If they didn't talk him out of running for president in 2000, they would've had their "elecrifying" moment. Can you imagine how infinitely better things would have turned out if Powell were president during 9/11?

    September 16, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  14. Andy J, NY

    you people are morons

    September 16, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  15. alvino

    Unlike most of the members of the Bush group, Powell was intelligent and highly respected. It must have hurt him deeply to be duped by Li'l Bush to go to war. In the long run, he will realize the only choice for a better America is Obama.

    September 16, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  16. Terry

    The election of an African-American president “would be electrifying"
    THATS CORRECT POWELL IF YOU RAN FOR PRESIDENT WE WOULD VOTE FOR YOU BUT NEVER OBAMA HE HAS NO EXPERIENCE.

    September 16, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  17. A Patel

    Powell.
    I belive you.Yet Iam not decided .

    September 16, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  18. Kevin

    Colin Powell will endorse Barack Obama for president. If he wasn't going to, he would have back his fellow Republican Mccain already.

    September 16, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  19. Sara

    Powell would have won the presidency in 2000 had he run and been the first black president, and he knows it. People forget his family (his wife) did not want him to run for the job back then. He also would very doubtfully have accepted a VP nomination for the same reason. It's my understanding he's "off the table" for that sort of thing. Powell is a great American but I have been less of a fan since he left the position of SOS. I do know a secret sevice agent who covered Powell and then Rice. Without really saying anything he implied Powell was kind of full of himself but did not stop raving about what a neat lady Rice is. That confirmed what I already thought. I wish the media talked about what a great lady Condi is. They would if she was a dem!

    September 16, 2008 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  20. Ed

    Powell says Obama's win would be electrifying but he must vote for who would do better for the country. Translation: He's voting for McCain!

    September 16, 2008 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  21. proud dem

    to mark: typical rep trying to put race or insults into everything that seem not to go their way.your win at all cost is what got us where we are today.this is not fantasyfootballllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll................

    September 16, 2008 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  22. M

    90% of blacks are backing Obama, so if Rice and Powell di, it wouldn't be surprising. At least Powell says he is waiting for the debates to hopefully get some specifics to how to fix things from the candidates. All McCain and Obama do is whine about each other and picking on them. Obama keeps blaming McCain for everything when he is a sitting Senator, just like McCain. Yet he doesn't have any answers to fix things. Can't wait for the debates

    September 16, 2008 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  23. LouOumo

    This entire election process needs a common sense, independent minded person involved. If there is anyone who doesn't respect Colin Powell, despite his mistakes under the Bush Administration, they don't understand the internal conflicts of a good soldier.

    I would like to see him inject himself in an independent way in this current election process.

    I don't think Powell would have considered being VP for McCain because he would have felt like he was being a token. Unfortunately, Palin isn't smart enough to recognize that she is being "tokenized" as well.

    September 16, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  24. Tired of the double standard

    Tell me this election is not about race. Electifying? Give me a break. For years, we have heard MLK and JJ say to look past the color of ones skin. Now that there is a candidate of their color, all that matters is the color of their skin. What gives? You can't have it both ways. This is what is wrong with this country.

    September 16, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  25. Frank Lee

    Colin who?

    Oh yeah, the guy who sold his soul to the Devil in 2003.

    September 16, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
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